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This is a push poll. I will include two quotes by Mike Huckabee for you to read before you answer:

Huckabee on Michael Brown:

It's a tragedy that the young man got shot, but this is a young man that just roughed up a store owner, just robbed a store, and now he's going after a cop's gun...It's a horrible thing that he was killed, but he could have avoided that if he'd have behaved like something other than a thug.
Huckabee on Josh Duggar:
No one needs to defend Josh’s actions as a teenager, but the fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility...Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things.
Poll

Would you rather have Michael Brown or Josh Duggar as a son?

81%87 votes
18%20 votes

| 107 votes | Vote | Results

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There is a role for secret negotiations, at times. There is a time for discretion. Usually this crops up in foreign affairs, and usually to do with national security. Sometimes, for peace to occur, face must be saved among our foreign partners or enemies, and secrecy is necessary for that. Okay.

However, there is not much of a role for secrecy in trade negotiations. Trade negotiations are largely an extension of domestic economic policy, not some peacemaking with foreign governments. This general idea rings especially true during negotiations on a trade pact that will not only create new law for the American economy, but also RESTRICT American legislation in the future that seeks to deal with domestic economic or social problems we are facing as a country.

Our elected representatives are being treated like fools:

"I bet that none of my colleagues have read the entire document. I would bet that most of them haven't even spent a couple hours looking at it," said Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who has acknowledged he has yet to read every single page of the trade agreement.

Because, as Brown explained, even if a member of Congress were to hunker down and pore over a draft trade agreement hundreds of pages long, filled with technical jargon and confusing cross-references –- what good would it do? Just sitting down and reading the agreement isn't going to make its content sink in.

[...]

For any senator who wants to study the draft TPP language, it has been made available in the basement of the Capitol, inside a secure, soundproof room. There, lawmakers surrender their cellphones and other mobile devices. Any notes taken inside the room must be left in the room.

Oh, and as to what I said, above, regarding foreign policy and national security measures?
"There is more access in most cases to CIA and Defense Department and Iran sanctions documents — better access to congressional staff and others — than for this trade agreement," said Brown.
http://www.npr.org/...

The in-process TPP document seeks to totally overhaul our economic interface with an increasingly important part of the world, with effects on both sides of the Pacific. It will hobble our elected lawmaking representatives' ability to deal with the problems we've seen during the past 30 years of a shrinking middle class and stagnant working class. Not to speak of the problems TPP itself will introduce that will be untouchable, policy-wise, thanks to TPP itself.

We don't know what is in this vast and restrictive policy set. We won't know for a while, and we'll only have (if fast-track authority passes) 90 days to read through it, organize, mobilize, and try to do something about it. Good luck to us, I guess?

Even then, the only action possible is to scuttle the whole deal. There will be no re-negotiation, no amendments, a single minor clause among hundreds or thousands of pages might make it through to "save" the rest. After such a "grueling" negotiation, there will be bureaucratic inertia to push through the "good" majority in spite of terrible clauses here and there.

Minor clauses can have major effects. On you, on your family, on your company, on your workplace. Minor clauses could restrict major policy necessities, down the road. On health care. On the environment. On labor. On you.

We don't know what's going on. Our elected Senators and Congressmen barely do, either. Limited access. No notes. These are our elected lawmakers. They represent us, federally, on the most granular level available to us. They are being treated likes fools. We are, too.

Discuss

Absent an actual policy to discuss, we're all in the strange situation today of treating the major economic policy of our time as some phantom fog. The best we can do, perhaps, is to view it as no better or no worse than other trade agreements of its kind. That's fair enough, as long as we can't know what it is unless we have special clearance to descend into a Washingtonian basement without recording devices.

We're ordinary folk, after all.

A lot of the focus on the Trans-Pacific Partnership has to do with the alleged benefits it will offer the United States. Our GDP will rise (a paltry .13%), and won't that be a wondrous occasion?! Finally, our country will be fully ascendant again, economically, and surely that's a great thing!

But maybe not. At least not for most Americans. We have recently seen a pretty nice boost in employment. The stock market is hitting record highs. The dollar is strong. We're better off than we were 6 years ago, and the depression (not recession) we lived through seems to be lifting. It's nice, it's okay, it's not bad.

But it could be better. Especially in terms of American's ability to provide for themselves and their familes it could be better. And Americans are working too hard for it not to be better, for them. To everyone I talk to, right or left, it seems a little odd that our currency is so much stronger, our stock market is so much higher, our economy appears to be booming and yet...

It doesn't seem like we're flourishing as a nation, economically, does it?

Why is that?

Bernie Sanders noted in today's floor speech:

IN THE LAST TWO YEARS, MR. PRESIDENT, THE 14 WEALTHIEST PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY HAVE SEEN AN INCREASE IN THEIR WEALTH OF $157 BILLION. THAT $157 BILLION IS MORE WEALTH THAN IS OWNED BY THE BOTTOM 130 MILLION AMERICANS.

Hmmm...well, so we're improving as a nation, by GDP, but what does that mean?

The United States' GDP has less and less to do with how the average American lives and can continue to live. The more wealth is concentrated, the less GDP has to do with the majority of Americans' lives.

As noted socialist outlet Bloomberg.com notes:

As useful as GDP is, it has some crucial flaws. It can obscure growing inequality and encourage the depletion of resources. It can’t differentiate between spending on good things (education) and terrible things (cigarettes). It doesn’t measure the economic services that nature provides, such as the dwindling wetlands that once protected New Orleans from storms, or those that don’t come with a market price, such as raising children. It fails to account for the value of social cohesion, education, health, leisure, a clean environment -- in other words, as Robert Kennedy once put it, GDP measures everything “except that which makes life worthwhile.”
http://www.bloombergview.com/...

TPP as a national economic plan and policy is about boosting American GDP, according to its selling points. The country, as an aggregate whole, will benefit.

But we're individual workers. We're not shareholders in America, Incorporated.

Without concurrent laws and policies that impact income inequality, even the supposed BENEFITS of TPP have nothing to do with us, with the vast majority of Americans left or right. The country can benefit even as millions of Americans lose their jobs, or take jobs that pay less. And we should not support those "benefits". Because they'll be to our detriment.

TPP is being sold to us on grounds that we should reject. It's about an aggregate increase in wealth. But with increasing inequality, this increase in wealth merely means we'll have richer fellow Americans, and be poorer ourselves in every way that, to quote Bloomberg quoting RFK, "makes life worthwhile."

Discuss

Listen up:

I know you all care about "policy" and "decisions" and "consequences" but...

Put a brick on your car's accelerator pedal.

C'mon, do it. Do it. Trust us.

Yes, yes, you're blindfolded. Just do it. TRUST us.

We want to go FAST! Right?! Yes, fast is better than slow. Zoom zoom!

To where?

Don't worry about it.

Keep that blindfold on!

You have car insurance, right?

Discuss

My diary on my support for Bernie Sanders was on the recommended list for nearly the whole weekend. But I've noticed that the diary on Hillary Clinton's benchmark-setting stance on immigration policy fell off rather quickly, by comparison.

Hillary Clinton has drawn a line in the sand on the subject of immigration reform -- and by "reform" it is meant a more humane and rational approach to the treatment of America's workers, documented and undocumented -- so far ahead of anyone else in the field that it's worth mentioning again. I think that it's possible it's been overlooked.

President Obama has received extraordinary political and legal backlash from his moves on the subject. Immigration policy along Clinton's lines is not the "right" move for a politically-craven person, regardless of the political spin one way or another. But still: Hillary Clinton has proposed moving even further than President Obama, and in her reasoning and her policy proposals she is right. And she is more right than other candidates in the field. And for the right reasons.

There is a place for American labor speaking out in favor of protecting their wages, jobs, and role in the American economy. But we cannot have second-class workers in this country, on whom we rely on for low prices while at the same time vilifying for their mere existence within our borders. Our meat cannot be processed by people afraid of deportation if they speak out against abuse. Our agriculture cannot be harvested by people worried about being separated from their families if they ask to be treated humanely.

The American labor movement cannot rediscover itself by papering over those injustices. Undocumented workers, who work in the United States, are American labor. Workers' rights should be expanded. And this should cover all American labor.

For-profit and indiscriminate detention of non-criminals, who mere days before may have been contributing to the bottom line of some American company, and contributing to the health, wealth, and sustenance of the American people...this has NO sense in it. Not economic sense, not moral sense, not political sense. The reasons that barely disguised hatred and dehumanization of these people takes political hold may be varied, but there's one right way to respond to it...

Clinton said she believes that undocumented immigrants who are children, who are particularly vulnerable such as transgender individuals, or who generally are not criminals should not be detained. She also criticized the congressional mandate that a certain number of detention beds be maintained and the fact that private prison companies run many immigrant detention facilities.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

So, as the ACLU says:

The “lock ’em up” approach to detention is contrary to common sense and our fundamental values. In America, liberty should be the norm for everyone—and detention the last resort.
https://www.aclu.org/...

Hillary Clinton has taken a stance against this sort of punitive and inhumane immigration policy. It's the strongest we've seen in the field so far. And it's been a surprise, for many. Credit is due to her, and to her campaign.

Discuss

I am 100% in for Bernie Sanders' campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, and for president. For the longest time, Bernie Sanders has represented my viewpoint on policy and my viewpoint on good governance and ethical politics. I am ecstatic that he is running for president.

A wonderful validation of the trust and hope I put in Senator Sanders is the way he's conducted himself since his announcement. Watch the interview with Wolf Blitzer, or read any interview in print done since the announcement. He is actually staying true to his ideals and his character. He is NOT running as the anti-Hillary, although many might want that. Hillary may or may not win, and may or may not be the best representative of the Democratic Party platform. But Bernie Sanders is NOT trying to tear down Hillary Clinton to scrape off a few percentage points. He detests negative ads and negative politics, and he's not doing it.

He is running a positive campaign as an advocate for us. Not as a man trying to claw his way to the top of a political pile, but as a positive advocate.

What he's doing is more transformative and more meaningful, and will have far more impact on the overall debate than some nonsensical celebrity cage match with Hillary Clinton. He is representing the views of millions of working and middle class Americans, and injecting a viable and tested set of policies and viewpoints into the national debate. He is doing so in a purely positive manner, in a way that is not against any one persona but instead for the people he represents.

I understand that many people, dissatisfied with Hillary Clinton as a candidate -- and dissatisfied with the dubious donors behind her, and the half-measure and sometimes retrograde policies and questionable voting history that she embodies -- will be very quick to try to transform their support for Bernie Sanders into an anti-Hillary campaign. This is understandable. But I really think that misses his rationale for running, and misses the real opportunity of his campaign for the nomination. A sensible, grounded, positive voice for the working and middle classes of this country.

I will be voting for a Democrat in November 2016. I will be voting for Bernie Sanders for as long as he's listed on the ballot. I hope others will join this campaign and donate to it to keep their advocate in action.

http://www.berniesanders.com

Discuss

Ummm...

Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state. He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels. Though we have often seen the world and some of our challenges quite differently, and advocated different responses now and in the past, what comes through clearly in this new book is a conviction that we, and President Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.

There really is no viable alternative. No other nation can bring together the necessary coalitions and provide the necessary capabilities to meet today’s complex global threats. But this leadership is not a birthright; it is a responsibility that must be assumed with determination and humility by each generation.

[...]

This isn’t just idealism. For an international order to take hold and last, Kissinger argues, it must relate “power to legitimacy.” To that end, Kissinger, the famous realist, sounds surprisingly idealistic. Even when there are tensions between our values and other objectives, America, he reminds us, succeeds by standing up for our values, not shirking them, and leads by engaging peoples and societies, the sources of legitimacy, not governments alone. If our might helps secure the balance of power that underpins the international order, our values and principles help make it acceptable and attractive to others.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

Well, I know who I won't be supporting in the Democratic primary now! I get that there's some degree of political calculus here -- you've got to get the the "serious thinkers" in the beltway, in the military industry, and in the media to view your foreign policy as "serious". But Kissinger went about American exceptionalism all wrong (it's possible to do it right...attacking ISIS is a good example), and led the United States' foreign policy during an era of coup-making, election-undoing, leader-assassinating madness on the world stage. And he usually failed to boot!

He's not a friend of the United States. He's not a friend of the Democratic Party. He's not a friend of what the future of our country should be.

Stop talking about the value of democracy in one sentence, and lauding Kissinger's commitment to democracy in the next. It shows a lack of understanding of democracy. And to even introduce the word "legitimacy" into the conversation? Good grief!

Best of luck in 2016 if you win the Democratic primary, Mrs Clinton. But I hope you don't, now. No more stupid wars, no more endless undemocratic wars to send "freedom" to people who choose a different path.

Discuss

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/...

http://www.bbc.com/...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

http://www.newyorker.com/...

The USA should hit ISIS hard, now. It shouldn't wait for American troops in Irbil to be threatened.

Literal genocide is on the horizon according to ISIS' own statements, and horrific crimes supported and defended by no nation state on Earth have already taken place and ISIS has not denied them, but instead bragged about them through video evidence and proclamations. This is not "Saddam gassed his own people". This is "we, ISIS, proclaim we are going to kill a lot of people unless..."

Every country on Earth is aghast at the actions of ISIS, at this point. The United States is in a position many of those countries are not in -- for reasons of military strength and history (as terrible as that history is) -- to act militarily in Iraq's territory.

This is a chance to act, in a real and justifiable way, on the side of righteousness and democracy, and in a case where the world could be brought together instead of divided by American military action. This is one of the rare instances where pacifism fails because pacifism has no role in the goals of ISIS and there isn't a realpolitik conflict resolvable through shared interests of nation-states, only unchecked and open-faced horror.

I hope President Obama immediately reconsiders his tepid red line of an attack on Irbil, and uses our military to target and destroy ISIS before they fulfill their stated goal in Iraq, or are dispersed to fulfill those goals elsewhere. I hope he brings other countries of a diverse and potentially non-allied nature on board with any military action.

This isn't Iraq War III. This would be preventing another history-haunting instance of the United States not doing something the world actually wanted it to do. It would be a missed opportunity to save innocent lives and unify the world, if briefly.

Discuss
I don't see an asterisk anywhere!
I'd love to write more, but good writing is about necessity, and there's little more to say to make the point.
Discuss

Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 06:32 PM PDT

Ukraine: Open Thread

by Addison

I guess it just seems odd to me that we have dozens of open threads handed off, one person to another, when a natural disaster strikes or when Syria threatens to boil over. But in this instance -- in what is widely considered the most serious "Cold War" resurgence in nearly 25 years -- it's a haphazard war of competing diaries. A little weird, right?

So, this is an experiment in a foreign policy "crisis" open thread.

If you have an opinion or viewpoint to share on the subject, go ahead. If not, don't. If this is superfluous and not at all in-demand by the community, it will disappear away quickly enough. But putting an "open thread" style venue out there seems like it might be useful, given the highly divergent opinions on the subject.

[Edit: I want to be clear I have an opinion on this stuff! I don't want to have that hidden at all, and I'll express my opinion in the comments. But it's also worth having a neutral starting-off point. And I hope that a diary such as this -- or another when the time is right -- can provide that]

Discuss

Short diary, should perhaps be a comment (most of it was a comment!), but whatever...I have a quick point/clarification to make -- one seemingly lacking for the current conversation -- that I think most people agree with!

I just want to say that the filibuster as it existed was not actually undemocratic. It sort of flew in the face of "majority rule", but in the end it was really just a Senate rule. And I generally liked it in practice, even though it allowed (let's say) 48 Senators to undo the will of 52 on certain topics.

But when it's (a) abused to the extent that one 5-year period can see as many filibuster uses as the previous few decades and (b) tied to issues totally separate from the nomination and approval process -- it's time for that rule to go.

The rule was in place to protect the rights of the Congressional minority in appointments. It did that for decades, and that's a good thing.

Then this new crop of legislators came in and used it, baldly and without disguise, as a substitute for being able to legislate competently.

If the current Congress would learn how to actually pass laws in the United States, I'll be more than happy to go back to the old filibuster rule.

Discuss

(This is a repost of a diary I wrote in April 2012, and then reposted in December 2012. It's sadly still relevant (again),  even though Social Security shouldn't be a part of the fiscal/budget negotiations at all, since the program has nothing to do with annual budget deficits nor the national debt...IT'S A TIMELESS TOPIC, APPARENTLY)

We can fund Social Security, truly strengthen it; the solution is well-known and fleshed out.

We don't need to cut benefits for anyone.

We don't need to cap benefits for anyone.

From "Social Security: Raising or Eliminating the Taxable Earnings Base", a report issued by the Congressional Research Service:

Option 2: Cover All Earnings and Pay Higher Benefits

If the earnings base was completely eliminated for both employers and employees so that all earnings were taxed, 95% of the projected financial shortfall in the Social Security program would be eliminated. To achieve solvency for the full 75-year projection period under this option, the total payroll tax rate would have to be raised by an additional 0.1 percentage points (from 12.4% to 12.5%) or other policy changes would have to be made to cover the shortfall.

Under this scenario high earners would pay higher taxes but also receive higher benefits. However, the net benefit to the Trust Funds is positive as $5 in additional revenue would provide only $1 in additional benefits (on average over their 75-year valuation period). Annual Social Security benefit payments would be much higher than today’s maximum of $25,440. A worker who paid taxes on earnings of $400,000 each year would get a benefit of approximately $6,000 a month or $72,000 a year—a replacement rate of 18%—while someone with lifetime earnings of $1 million a year would get a monthly Social Security benefit of approximately $13,500 a month or $162,000 a year—a replacement rate of 16.2%.

This will result in no additional taxes for the majority of Americans, a small tax increase for many, and a few (~5%) with a substantially higher tax burden (with correspondingly higher Social Security benefits paid out to them, I'll add):
If the base were removed, the majority of beneficiaries would pay no additional taxes compared with current law, as fewer than 8% of workers are projected to earn above the taxable wage base each year. Examining the impact on individuals receiving Social Security benefits in 2035, roughly one in five beneficiaries (21%) would have paid any additional taxes over their lifetimes compared with current law (Figure 3). For most of these affected individuals, the increase would be moderate. Roughly 16% of all beneficiaries would see their lifetime tax payments increase by less than 10%. However, 3% of all beneficiaries would have their tax payments increase by 10% to 19%, and 2% would have tax increases of 20% or more.
Of course this is precisely the reason this proposal is not "Very Serious" -- it requires a sizable tax increase on the rich and inexplicably "voodoo economics" is still the default economic theory of journalists and politicians in this country.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed it, and maybe even agreed that this is a solution with some potential for funding Social Security. Now all you need to do is get hired by the New York Times or elected to Congress...

Discuss
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