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Jefferson23

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Journal Archives

Ezra Klein and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Tax Calculator

March 30, 2016

By Jim Naureckas

The website Vox (3/25/16) has what editor-in-chief Ezra Klein describes as an “excellent tax calculator” that, in its headline’s promise, “Tells You How Each Presidential Candidate’s Tax Plan Affects You.”

Actually, it does no such thing; it’s a gimmick that is entirely useless except as a deceptive advertisement for Hillary Clinton

As a gimmick, it’s pretty simple. You put in your annual income (actually, your “expanded cash income,” which you probably don’t know even if you know what it is), whether you’re single or married and whether you have no kids, one kid, or two or more kids. And then it tells you what Donald Trump’s, Ted Cruz’s, Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ “plans mean for your federal tax liability.”

Let’s try it out with the US median household income ($43,585), married, two kids. You get a graphic that looks like this:



“Pay $5,110 more”—holy smokes! Stop the revolution, I want to get off! Why didn’t someone (besides Vox’s Alvin Chang) tell me that “Sanders wants to implement massive increases across the board, including on the poor”?

Maybe because he doesn’t—and you wouldn’t pay $5,110 more, or anything like it.

Mostly, that big number you get for the Sanders tax hike when you plug in your income is the payroll tax that employers will pay to cover the cost of a single-payer healthcare system. As the Tax Policy Center, which worked with Vox to create the calculator, explains:

We’re including payroll taxes, excise taxes and corporate income taxes as well as individual income taxes…. Most economists think employers pass their share of the tax on to workers in the form of lower wages.

With all due respect to most economists, this is dubious. Unless you work at the rare enterprise that does not have profit as its primary goal, your bosses are already paying you as little as they think they can get away with. If they get a new cost associated with your employment, they may try to raise their prices. They may look for other areas where they can cut costs. They may even decide that they can no longer afford to employ you. But what they won’t do is suddenly realize that they could have been paying you thousands of dollars less all along without you quitting. (They may even be forced to accept a lower profit rate, though that’s something “most economists” seem to exclude a priori.)

But that’s not even the real problem with Vox’s calculator. Sanders’ plan is based on using a new payroll tax to pay for a single-payer healthcare system, which will relieve businesses of the considerable burden of paying for employee healthcare. Since just about everyone agrees that single-payer is cheaper than what we have now (including Ezra Klein, before Sanders started running against Clinton on a single-payer platform), in theory business as a whole should come out ahead. But certainly you need to take into account that business would be getting a big break on expenses at the same time that it’s getting a new tax, right?

No, Vox thinks you don’t need to take that into account. From the calculator’s FAQ: “The Tax Policy Center’s model does not include spending programs and thus can only show the effects of tax changes.”

Imagine a website—maybe one that seems to have a pronounced pro-Sanders tilt—creating a “Benefits Calculator” that promises to tell you how each candidate’s benefits plan affects you. The calculator guesstimates how much your employer will save with a single-payer plan and, using the same dubious economics, implies that that savings is money in your bank account. What about your employer’s big tax hike? It’s a benefits calculator—it can’t show the effect of tax changes!

Ezra Klein would be the first to say that a website that constructed a machine for telling people that Bernie Sanders would give them thousands of dollars was engaging in partisan hackery. Yet when Vox does the same thing in reverse, it’s data-driven journalism. Or something.

http://fair.org/home/ezra-klein-and-the-terrible-horrible-no-good-tax-calculator/

US Intel Vets Warn Against Torture



Thursday, 24 March 2016 09:14
0 Comments

By Ray McGovern. This article was first published on Consortium News.

Experienced intelligence professionals reaffirm that torture – while popular with “tough” politicians – doesn’t work in getting accurate and actionable information, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

To those living “outside the Beltway” it may seem counterintuitive that those of us whose analysis has been correct on key issues that the U.S. government got criminally wrong – like the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – would be blacklisted from “mainstream” media and ostracized by the Smart People of the Establishment. But, alas, that’s the way it is.

Forget the continuing carnage in which hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions made refugees. Within the mainstream U.S. media and around Washington’s major policy circles, there is little serious dialogue, much less debate about what went so hideously wrong; and Americans still innocently wonder – regarding the people on the receiving end of the blunderbuss violence – “why they hate us.”

After more than 13 years of presenting thoughtful critiques to senior officials – and having little discernible impact – we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity are strongly tempted to take some solace in having made a good-faith effort to spread some truth around – and, now, go play golf. But the stakes are too high. We can’t in good conscience approach the first tee without having tried one more time.

http://www.therealnews.com/t2/component/content/article/57-ray-mcgovern/2677-us-intel-vets-warn-against-torture

How politicians duck the blame for terrorism

The French and British governments enabled Isis to grow, but the media lets them off the hook

Patrick Cockburn

Saturday 19 March 2016

The capture of Salah Abdeslam, thought to be the sole surviving planner of the Paris massacre, means that the media is focusing once again on the threat of terrorist attack by Islamic State. Questions are asked about why the most wanted man in Europe was able to elude the police for so long, even though he was living in his home district of Molenbeek in Brussels. Television and newspapers ask nervously about the chances of Isis carrying out another atrocity aimed at dominating the news agenda and showing that it is still in business.

The reporting of the events in Brussels is in keeping with that after the January (Charlie Hebdo) and November Paris attacks and the Tunisian beach killings by Isis last year. For several days there is blanket coverage by the media as it allocates time and space far beyond what is needed to relate developments. But then the focus shifts abruptly elsewhere and Isis becomes yesterday’s story, treated as if the movement has ceased to exist or at least lost its capacity to affect our lives.


It is not as if Isis has stopped killing people in large numbers since the slaughter in Paris on 13 November; it is, rather, that it is not doing so in Europe. I was in Baghdad on 28 February when two Isis suicide bombers on motorcycles blew themselves up in an outdoor mobile phone market in Sadr City, killing 73 people and injuring more than 100. On the same day, dozens of Isis fighters riding in pick-ups with heavy machine guns mounted in the back attacked army and police outposts in Abu Ghraib, site of the notorious prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad. There was an initial assault by at least four suicide bombers, one driving a vehicle packed with explosives into a barracks, and fighting went on for hours around a burning grain silo.

The outside world scarcely noticed these bloody events because they seem to be part of the natural order in Iraq and Syria. But the total number of Iraqis killed by these two attacks – and another double suicide bombing of a Shia mosque in the Shuala district of Baghdad four days earlier – was about the same as the 130 people who died in Paris at the hands of Isis last November.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/how-politicians-duck-the-blame-for-terrorism-a6942016.html

Obama’s Break with the Establishment ( Foreign Policy ) Vote for Bernie Sanders

Tuesday, 22 March 2016 07:46


By Gareth Porter. This article was first published on Consortium News.

President Obama, with his characteristic diffidence, has announced his “liberation” from the Washington foreign-policy “playbook,” but the national security elite is already striking back, writes Gareth Porter.

The biggest story in Jeffrey Goldberg’s 20,000-word report on “The Obama Doctrine” is President Barack Obama’s open break with the foreign policy establishment.

The critique of orthodox national security policy thinking that Obama outlined in interviews with Goldberg goes farther than anything delivered on the record by a sitting president. It showed that Obama’s view on how to define and advance U.S. “national security” diverges sharply from those of the orthodox views of national security bureaucracy and Washington foreign policy think tanks on U.S. “credibility,” the real interests the United States in the Middle East and how the United States should respond to terrorism.

It was the controversy surrounding his decision in the 2013 Syrian crisis not to authorize airstrikes against government forces that provoked Obama to go public with his position in that broader struggle. The foreign policy elite in Washington has issued a steady drumbeat of opinion pieces portraying Obama’s failure to launch a cruise missile attack against the Syrian air force and its air defense system in 2013 as a major blow to the U.S. role in the world because it forfeited U.S. “credibility.”

http://therealnews.com/t2/component/content/article/92-more-blog-posts-from-gareth-porter/2672-obamas-break-with-the-establishment

The Lobbyist Who Made You Pay More at the Drugstore

Here's how the pharmaceutical industry keeps America's drug prices among the highest in the world.

By Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman | March 18, 2016


W.J. "Billy" Tauzin during his tenure as House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman in 2001. (Photo by Alex Wong/Newsmakers)

The following is excerpted from Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman’s new book, Nation On the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It. You can also listen to an interview with the authors.

Bill and Faith Wildrick have never heard of Billy Tauzin, but they’re paying dearly for Tauzin’s tireless work for the pharmaceuticbal industry. So are Faith’s employer and all of her co-workers. We all are. And in the future, so will our children and grandchildren.

Thanks in large part to Tauzin and Washington’s infamous revolving door, the Wildricks are paying so much to fill Bill’s prescriptions every month — even with their insurance — that they’re barely able to make ends meet. They and most of the rest of us, including the executives and employees of MCS Industries, the Easton, Pennsylvania, company where Faith works, also have to fork over more money to health insurance companies every payday because of the deals Tauzin cut for Big Pharma.


We can also thank Tauzin and many of his friends in Washington for increases in both our taxes and the national debt. In fact, by 2023, the US government’s debt will likely be more than a trillion dollars higher than it otherwise would be because of the way Tauzin and other lobbyists — with the blessing of President George W. Bush and Republican leaders in Congress — wrote the Medicare drug bill in 2003.

And in large part because of Tauzin’s deal making and the millions of dollars at his disposal, the Affordable Care Act — with the blessing of President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress — was written in a way that boosts drug company profits while doing little to make prescription medications more affordable for the vast majority of Americans. In fact, drug prices are going up at a faster clip than ever before.

As drug industry profits soar, millions of people — including most of our elected officials — continue to accept as gospel Big Pharma’s talking points that (1) any constraint on pharmaceutical companies’ ability to gouge us would “stifle” or “have a chilling effect” on innovation and (2) they have to charge Americans more because other countries won’t let them gouge their citizens. For the success of this propaganda we can thank the millions of dollars in dark money the industry spends every year on deceptive PR campaigns.

In just a little more than three decades, our total spending on health care exploded to $2.9 trillion.

Americans pay far more for their prescription medications than citizens of any other country. In fact, we pay almost 40 percent more than Canada, the next highest spender on drugs, and twice as much as many European countries, including France and Germany. In 2013 we spent exactly 100 percent more per capita on pharmaceuticals than the average of the 34 countries that comprise the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of which the United States is a member. And the portion of our tax dollars that go to Medicare likely will continue to increase because Congress, under the influence of the pharmaceutical industry’s cash, made it impossible for Medicare to negotiate with drug companies in order to lower costs.

In 1980, spending on health care in the United States totaled $255.8 billion. Of that total, we spent 39.3 percent on hospital care, 25.3 percent on physician/professional services, and 4.7 percent on prescription drugs. In just a little more than three decades, our total spending on health care exploded to $2.9 trillion. Between 1980 and 2013, the percentage of the total that we spent on hospital care dropped to 32.1, while spending on physician/professional services increased slightly, to 26.6 percent. Spending on prescription drugs, by contrast, almost doubled, to 9.3 percent.

Partly because of that steep increase, health care spending reached 17.4 percent of the US Gross Domestic Product in 2013, nearly double the average of 9.3 percent of the OECD countries. Spending on health care per person in the United States reached $9,255 in 2013, compared to the $3,484 average spent on health care per person in the OECD as a whole.

If you’re a young, healthy person you probably can’t even remember the last time you had to get a prescription filled. You may be wondering why you should even care about the rising cost of drugs and the ability of big corporations and their lobbyists to keep the status quo firmly in place.

US Pharmaceutical Spending, Per Capita, Compared to Other OECD CountriesSource: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Methodology: Numbers are per capita for 2013 or nearest year: Data not available for New Zealand, Turkey and the United Kingdom.




You should care because even if you’re not a regular customer at the pharmacy counter, you’re paying for the millions of other Americans who are, through taxes and health insurance premiums that are going up every year because drug companies have so many politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, in their corner.

According to Express Scripts’ prescription price index, a branded drug that cost $100 in 2008 had almost doubled in price six years later. This rapid increase in drug prices is one of the reasons why health insurers and employers that offer coverage to their workers are constantly raising not only the premiums we have to pay but also our out-of-pocket costs through higher deductibles and coinsurance rates.

And if you do get sick enough to need meds that aren’t yet available in generic form, your insurer will make you pay much more for them than you would have just a few years ago. Since 2000, the average copayment for such drugs has doubled, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And coinsurance rates for people who have to pay a percentage of their prescription drug costs instead of a fixed copayment have risen even faster. The average coinsurance rate for drugs was 14 percent in 2008. The rate had jumped to 32 percent by 2013, according to the consulting firm Towers Watson.

The Cagey Cajun

It’s worth taking a closer look at Tauzin’s life, both to understand the power a single industry wields over Capitol Hill and to witness the ways in which Washington’s revolving door works.

Born into a working-class French-speaking Cajun family in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, Wilbert Joseph Tauzin II might have settled into the life of a construction worker — his father taught him how to wire houses and install air conditioners — had he not been bitten by the political bug even before college.

The “Cagey Cajun,” as he would later be called in Washington, was audacious enough to throw his hat in the ring for student council president of Thibodaux High School when he was just a sophomore. It was the first of many political campaigns he would win.

After graduation, he enrolled in Nicholls State University, which is just two and a half miles from his high school. Not being able to count on his family for much financial support, he worked, at various times, as an electrician’s helper, an oil rigger and a pipefitter to cover his tuition.

While in college, Tauzin realized that remaining loyal to a single political party has its drawbacks. Campus politics when he was a student was dominated by a party system. At the time, Tauzin, who later would be known as a conservative lawmaker, considered himself a Liberal. But when he sought the Liberal Party’s nomination for student body vice president, he came up a few votes short. Instead of supporting the Liberal candidate who beat him, however, the young Tauzin decided to stay in the race as an independent. He went on to victory.

He was a Democrat when the voters in Louisiana’s Third Congressional District elected him to Congress in 1980. Within a few years he had become one of his party’s assistant majority whips. He also would play a key role in bringing together a group of his conservative and moderate colleagues who came to be called Blue Dog Democrats, a name inspired by Cajun artist George Rodrigue’s famous Blue Dog paintings, one of which graced a wall of the congressman’s office.

But after the Gingrich Revolution of 1994, which put Republicans in charge of Congress, Representative Tauzin crossed the aisle and soon became the deputy majority whip for House Republicans. Thus he became the first member of Congress to have served in leadership positions of both parties. He’s “as wily as any alligator in the swamp,” former Tennessee congressman Jim Cooper, a Democrat, told The New York Times during the debate on what would ultimately become the Affordable Care Act.

For many years, Tauzin was one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most important allies in Congress, especially from 2001 to 2004, when he chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration. While he held that chairmanship, drug companies and insurance and health professionals contributed nearly $1 million to Tauzin’s congressional campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s chump change, though, compared to what the pharmaceutical industry paid him as its top lobbyist when he left Congress in 2005. His salary increased more than twelvefold — from $162,100 to $2 million — the minute he signed on as president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry’s powerful trade group.



PhRMA spent $26 million on lobbying in 2009, during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, to shape the law to its satisfaction. Individual companies within the pharmaceutical and health products industry spent millions more on top of that. In fact, at $275 million, the industry’s federal lobbying expenditures in 2009 stand as the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying by one industry in a single year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The total swelled to $558 million when lobbying expenditures from hospitals, medical device manufacturers and other health care companies and organizations were included. The industry also doled out millions of dollars in campaign contributions in 2008 and 2009, much of it to Democrats who ostensibly were in charge of writing the reform legislation.

PhRMA’s ability to influence elections and public policy has made it the envy of most other corporate advocacy groups in Washington. Not only is PhRMA consistently among the top spenders on lobbying activities every year, it is widely considered to be the most effective. The PR and consulting firm APCO Worldwide asked hundreds of the city’s movers and shakers in 2013 which of approximately fifty leading trade associations had the most clout. PhRMA came out on top, garnering the most wins in the most categories. It was voted the best at lobbying, the most effective at having a local and federal presence and the group whose members most frequently “mobilize to contact policymakers.” In other words, what PhRMA wants, PhRMA is very likely to get.

PhRMA, Clinton, Bush, Obama

Although Tauzin’s five-year reign at PhRMA proved extremely successful, the group has been a major force in Washington for more than twenty years. One of the industry’s most important victories came in 1994, when it teamed up with lobbyists for doctors, hospitals, medical device manufacturers and insurers to defeat President Clinton’s health care reform proposal. Clinton wanted to give Medicare the ability to negotiate with drug companies and to make it legal for medications made in the United States and exported to Canada and other countries to be imported back into the States and sold at lower prices. Both of those policy changes undoubtedly would have cut into drug company profit margins. But the Clinton reform legislation never made it to the floor of either the House or Senate for a vote. Industry lobbyists were able to kill it in committee.


Lawmakers of both parties tried to put those proposals back on the table nearly ten years later, when President George W. Bush, looking to shore up his support among older voters, pledged to work with Congress to add a voluntary prescription drug benefit — which came to be known as Part D — to the Medicare program. Not wanting to risk losing generous campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, however, Bush and congressional leaders, including Tauzin, who by then chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, invited drug company lobbyists to help shape what would become the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. Also invited to the table were lobbyists for health insurers. They made certain that Medicare beneficiaries who wanted drug coverage would have to buy it from private insurers.

in full: http://billmoyers.com/story/the-man-who-made-you-pay-more-at-the-drugstore/



Vote for Bernie Sanders

Sanders Campaign Could Win In Spite of Corporate Media Spin

Robert W. McChesney, Prof. of Media and Communications, University of Illinois, says that Sanders has a good fighting chance to secure the Democratic nomination in spite of the traditional media's effort to undermine his success

March 20, 2016

Video only, running time 4.5 minutes approx.




Bio

Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2002 he was the co-founder of Free Press, a national media reform organization – www.freepress.net – and served as its President until April 2008, and remains on its Board of Directors. McChesney also hosts the “Media Matters” weekly radio program every Sunday afternoon on NPR-affiliate WILL-AM radio – http://will.uiuc.edu/am/mediamatters/default.htm; it is the top-rated program in its time slot in the Champaign-Urbana area. McChesney has written or edited eighteen books. His work has been professionally translated into 28 languages. His latest books is called "Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights: The Collapse of Journalism and What Can Be Done to Fix It". In 2008 the Utne Reader listed McChesney among their “50 visionaries who are changing the world.” In 2001 Adbusters Magazine named him one of the “Nine Pioneers of Mental Environmentalism.” In 2006 right-winger David Horowitz included McChesney on his list of the “101 most dangerous professors in America.” In 2010, along with John Nichols, McChesney was awarded the U.S. Newspaper Guild’s 2010 Herbert Block Freedom Award; according to the Guild’s Executive Council, “the two of you have done more for press freedom than anyone. Your body of work is second to none. This is a transformative year for journalism. If we're able to chart a course that will preserve what matters, it will be in large part due to both of you.” In 2011 McChesney was given the “Communication Research as an Agent of Change” lifetime achievement award from the International Communication Assn.

How politicians duck the blame for terrorism

The French and British governments enabled Isis to grow, but the media lets them off the hook

Patrick Cockburn

17 hours ago

The capture of Salah Abdeslam, thought to be the sole surviving planner of the Paris massacre, means that the media is focusing once again on the threat of terrorist attack by Islamic State. Questions are asked about why the most wanted man in Europe was able to elude the police for so long, even though he was living in his home district of Molenbeek in Brussels. Television and newspapers ask nervously about the chances of Isis carrying out another atrocity aimed at dominating the news agenda and showing that it is still in business.

The reporting of the events in Brussels is in keeping with that after the January (Charlie Hebdo) and November Paris attacks and the Tunisian beach killings by Isis last year. For several days there is blanket coverage by the media as it allocates time and space far beyond what is needed to relate developments. But then the focus shifts abruptly elsewhere and Isis becomes yesterday’s story, treated as if the movement has ceased to exist or at least lost its capacity to affect our lives.


It is not as if Isis has stopped killing people in large numbers since the slaughter in Paris on 13 November; it is, rather, that it is not doing so in Europe. I was in Baghdad on 28 February when two Isis suicide bombers on motorcycles blew themselves up in an outdoor mobile phone market in Sadr City, killing 73 people and injuring more than 100. On the same day, dozens of Isis fighters riding in pick-ups with heavy machine guns mounted in the back attacked army and police outposts in Abu Ghraib, site of the notorious prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad. There was an initial assault by at least four suicide bombers, one driving a vehicle packed with explosives into a barracks, and fighting went on for hours around a burning grain silo.

The outside world scarcely noticed these bloody events because they seem to be part of the natural order in Iraq and Syria. But the total number of Iraqis killed by these two attacks – and another double suicide bombing of a Shia mosque in the Shuala district of Baghdad four days earlier – was about the same as the 130 people who died in Paris at the hands of Isis last November.

There has always been a disconnect in the minds of people in Europe between the wars in Iraq and Syria and terrorist attacks against Europeans. This is in part because Baghdad and Damascus are exotic and frightening places, and pictures of the aftermath of bombings have been the norm since the US invasion of 2003. But there is a more insidious reason why Europeans do not sufficiently take on board the connection between the wars in the Middle East and the threat to their own security. Separating the two is much in the interests of Western political leaders, because it means that the public does not see that their disastrous policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and beyond created the conditions for the rise of Isis and for terrorist gangs such as that to which Salah Abdeslam belonged.

remainder in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/how-politicians-duck-the-blame-for-terrorism-a6942016.html

What Bernie Sanders Has Achieved

March 17, 2016


It’s too early to say what Bernie Sanders’s legacy will be, but he has already done more than just pull Hillary Clinton to the left.


As he has been for most of the past year, Bernie Sanders is on the road. On Thursday, he was scheduled to hold a town-hall meeting at the Twin Arrows Casino, east of Flagstaff, Arizona. You read that right: the seventy-four-year-old Vermont senator was set to issue his trademark call for a “political revolution” and to demand more income and wealth redistribution at a capitalist mecca in one of the most conservative states in the Union.

That, in itself, says something about Sanders and the historical significance of his campaign. He has cast aside many of the rules and adages of American politics, one of which is that it’s hard for liberals, never mind self-described socialists, to win support in the Sun Belt. And although Sanders now seems unlikely to win the Democratic nomination for President, he has achieved much more than that.

In reaching out to the young, the idealistic, and the disillusioned, he has earned far more votes than virtually anybody in the Democratic Party (or the punditry) expected. He has expanded the political space, bringing controversial issues like rising inequality and political corruption, which had previously been considered the province of leftists and policy wonks, into their rightful place at the center of the discussion. And by refusing to accept corporate money and basing his campaign on individual donations, he has reinvigorated American democracy.

It is obvious that Sanders has, in the process, put a scare into Hillary Clinton’s campaign. What is perhaps less widely acknowledged is how close he came to upending it. Of the twenty-five states that have held Democratic primaries and caucuses, Sanders has won nine and Clinton has won sixteen (plus American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands). But outside the South, where Clinton has won large majorities of black voters, many of Sanders’s losses have been narrow.

Given the way the primary calendar was structured, with many Southern states voting in February and March, Sanders’s route to victory was always going to be precarious. It depended on stunning Clinton early, building up momentum in the Rocky Mountain and Midwest regions, then scoring some big victories in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

The Sanders campaign achieved its initial goal, virtually tying Clinton in Iowa, trouncing her in New Hampshire, and losing by a whisker in Nevada. Had Sanders earned a few thousand more votes in Iowa and Nevada, he would have won all three contests. Given his opponent’s strength among black voters in the South, Super Tuesday was always going to be tricky for him. On election day, Clinton’s victories in the Southern states were even bigger than expected, and they earned her a sizable lead in the delegate count.

Still, Sanders carried Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Vermont, and in Massachusetts he came within two percentage points of victory. Over the next week, he won three more states—Kansas, Nebraska, and Maine—and then, of course, Michigan. Had Sanders followed up that shocking triumph by carrying Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio, this past Tuesday, his insurgent game plan would have been back on track.

That it didn’t quite work out doesn’t detract from the impact Sanders has had. To gauge his influence, you need only listen to one of Clinton’s campaign speeches. On issues like inequality, trade, the environment, corporate offshoring, and bringing Wall Street miscreants to justice, the former Secretary of State has adopted Sanders’s language—and, in some cases, his policies. Clinton had undoubtedly always intended to run as a center-left progressive in 2016, just as she did in 2008, but Sanders has forced her onto ground she hadn’t originally intended to occupy.

It isn’t just Clinton, either. Even Republicans have been taking up some of Sanders’s themes. “The top one per cent under President Obama, the millionaires and billionaires that he constantly demagogued, earned a higher share for our national income than any year since 1928,” Ted Cruz said earlier this year. Donald Trump has talked about the need to raise taxes on hedge-fund managers and leveraged-buyout tycoons. John Kasich has rebranded himself as a champion for the poor and excluded. Of course, the regressive tax policies that Cruz, Trump, and Kasich are advocating would exacerbate inequality, rather than reduce it, but the fact that Republicans have felt obliged to address these issues at all surely owes something to Sanders and the populist wave that he represents.

Sanders’s other big theme is money in politics. Particularly since the Citizens United ruling, many politicians, Clinton included, have warned of the corrosive effects of big money on our democracy. But nobody has made the argument as passionately or as powerfully as Sanders. “American democracy is not about billionaires being able to buy candidates and elections,” he said in launching his campaign. “It is not about the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and other incredibly wealthy individuals spending billions of dollars to elect candidates who will make the rich richer and everyone else poorer…. This is not democracy. This is oligarchy.”

Since Sanders uttered these words, last May, his message hasn’t changed. Day after day, he has spoken in terms that haven’t been heard from a serious major-party candidate since William Jennings Bryan, the great prairie populist, who famously accused his opponent, William McKinley, and the moneyed interests who supported McKinley, of trying to “crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” (Bryan was referring to the gold standard, which he opposed.) In much the same way that Trump has labelled Sanders a Communist, the Republicans of Bryan’s day called him a fanatic who would wreck the American economy. Even some Democrats depicted Bryan as a dangerous radical with impractical policy proposals.

Bryan never became President, but in attacking the powerful interests that dictated policies in Washington, and calling out the corrupt politicians who were beholden to those interests, he helped to create a popular movement—Progressivism—that would have an enormous impact on American policymaking in the first half of the twentieth century, from Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting to F.D.R.’s New Deal.

It’s too early to say what Sanders’s legacy will be, or whether some of the ideas that he is pushing—such as breaking up the big banks, introducing a single-payer health-care system, and returning tax rates on the rich closer to the levels that F.D.R. introduced—will eventually be adopted. Given the Republicans Party’s grip on Congress and the centrist mindset of Clinton’s advisers, it is hard to see much movement in this direction any time soon.

But it is also evident that, in the past ten months, Sanders has defied the pundits, alarmed the comfortable, and inspired the young. He has turned what looked to be a political coronation into a lively and hard-fought contest, forcing his opponent to modify her positions and raise her game. He has demonstrated that Presidential campaigns don’t have to be beholden to big donors. And he has shown that, surprisingly enough, there is still a place in American politics for an independent-minded speaker of uncomfortable truths. What’s more, he isn’t done yet.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/what-bernie-sanders-has-achieved

Syria war five years on Bringing conflict to an international level is helping to hold the ceasefire

The withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria strengthens the current ceasefire, de-escalates the violence and brings in view the distant prospect of an end to five years of war. The extent of the Russian pull-out remains uncertain as some of its bombers flew home on 15 March, while others attacked Isis fighters holding the ancient city of Palmyra.

Russia has succeeded in achieving most of its war aims since it started air strikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad and against his opponents on 30 September last year. At that time the Syrian army was retreating after a series of defeats, while today it is advancing on all fronts, though it is unlikely to win a total victory.

Russian military success means that it has re-established itself as a great power in the core region of the Middle East for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. By pulling out most of Russia’s forces at this stage, President Vladimir Putin avoids overplaying his hand and being sucked into the Syrian quagmire as his critics had predicted.


Russia never sent great forces to Syria and its intervention primarily involved launching air strikes in support of the Syrian army, which were carried out by 35 fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and long-distance missiles. But this was enough to multiply vastly the firepower of the Syrian army and change the balance of power on the ground. At the same time, it has become clear over the past month that Russia does not want to give Mr Assad a blank cheque enabling him to fight on until final victory.


This was the mistake made by the US and its allies, including Britain, in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban in 2001 and again in Iraq after the invasion in 2003. In both cases, a US-led coalition failed to turn military victory into political success because it was propping up a weak local partner seeking to use foreign backing to monopolise power locally. Mr Putin is evidently trying to avoid this trap and maximise political gains without being dragged into a long conflict. He pursued a similar strategy in the 2008 war in Georgia when Russia won a quick victory and brought the conflict to a close.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-civil-war-bringing-conflict-to-an-international-level-is-helping-to-hold-the-ceasefire-a6933081.html

Noam Chomsky Reminds US of Its Human Rights Violations in Cuba

March 15, 2016

Washington should first put an end to its own violations against the small island nation before "teaching" Cuba about human rights.

Internationally renowned professor Noam Chomsky urged Washington on Tuesday to end its economic blockade and military occupation of Guantanamo on the Cuban territory, a few days before President Barack Obama is expected to “give a lesson of human rights” in Havana.

In a letter co-signed by many prominent figures and organizations including Eva Golinger and Rev. Michael Kinnamon, Chomsky criticized the blockade for having deprived Cubans of an estimated US$117 billion between 1960 and 2014.

“The blockade not only hurts Cuba, but also the U.S.,” highlighted the text. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which advocates lifting the embargo, states the cost to the U.S. economy of the 54 year sanctions range from $1.2 to $3.6 billion per year.”

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Noam-Chomsky-Reminds-US-of-Its-Human-Rights-Violations-in-Cuba-20160315-0051.html
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