Liberal Reform – Ipass Wed, 21 Jul 2021 10:16:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 With a short flight, Bezos redefines the image of his brawling businessman Wed, 21 Jul 2021 07:11:27 +0000

It all lasted 11 minutes, a thrilling race for the richest man on the planet.

But there was something inevitably exciting about yesterday’s perfect rocket launch, Blue Origin, and its incredibly soft landing, a triumph of capitalism and American ingenuity.

But just as Jeff Bezos was captivated by the beauty of Earth from the edge of space, the mission also prompts us to see it in a new way. The man picked up the cable news for hours on end turning the event into a TV extravaganza, with plenty of subplots and the distribution of trucks full of cash.

There was the indelible image of Bezos, in his flight suit, thumbing his thumb out the window moments after the capsule landed in the Texas desert. As he proclaimed the “best day ever”, there was no doubt that it represented a career pivot and a makeover.

I say that, and also pay homage to Richard Branson’s achievement, without cynicism. It was a blast to anchor Fox’s coverage on Branson’s Virgin Galactic landing earlier this month. These are two billionaires who could have continued to earn huge sums of money.

Bezos had previously confused experts by making Amazon a world-changing business giant. He had already created a cinema division, Alexa and same day delivery. He had already bought the Washington Post.

Now he wants to be seen as a space exploration guy and says he will split his time between that and his climate change foundation. (Amazon, where he just stepped down as CEO, will be heading on his own? I don’t think so.)

Think about what Bezos wasn’t talking about yesterday: questionable conditions in Amazon warehouses. Controversy over Post’s stories or his feud with Donald Trump. And certainly not his allegation of extortion against the National Enquirer for posting stories about his extramarital affair.


In fact, one of his rare references to Amazon was thanking the company’s customers, “because you paid for it.” Some subscribers might not be thrilled to hear this, but Bezos is free to spend his personal fortune however he wants.

There were a lot of nice touches, like Bezos had a screenwriter. Take the oldest female passenger to space (Wally Funk, 82, an aviator who was unable to join the astronaut program in 1961 due to her gender), and the youngest, an 18-year-old student. The Dutch student replaced someone who agreed to pay $ 28 million for the seat.

Bezos also took Amelia Earhart’s glasses during the flight and named it after Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

The normally reclusive man, sporting a cowboy hat, was quite talkative during a press conference that was mostly an infomercial, complete with a video and a handful of press questions. He spoke of the “serene and peaceful” feeling of weightlessness and how he was “amazed” by “the fragility of the earth”. This allowed him to launch into an environmental discourse: “As we move around the planet, we damage it.”

And then, the surprise twist. Bezos, who has had his fair share of negative coverage, has started complaining about “ad hominem attacks”, which are “amplified by social media.” So, since he caught the attention of television, he unveiled the Courage and Civility Awards, each accompanied by a gift of $ 100 million to distribute to meritorious efforts.

One of the recipients was celebrity chef Jose Andres, founder of a non-profit organization dedicated to providing meals after natural disasters.

The other: liberal CNN commentator Van Jones, who worked in the Obama White House. Jones has done a good job on criminal justice reform, but his caustic anti-Trump rhetoric hardly seems the model of civility. So Bezos was playing according to his left leanings. (Even Anderson Cooper, who anchors the network’s coverage, was stunned by this development.)

I’m skeptical that Bezos and Branson are ushering in a new era of space tourism, given the huge costs involved. But it’s fascinating to see private companies exploring the cosmos, a mission once limited to the government.


In a time when the country is consumed with partisanship over everything from vaccinations to infrastructure, Bezos is trying to rise to a higher plateau now that he looks down on Earth. Just as John D. Rockefeller and other titans of the industrial age donated large sums to colleges and institutions, Bezos wants to follow Bill Gates’ path of redefining himself as a man of charity.

Whether or not people buy Bezos 2.0, there are worse ways billionaires can spend their money.

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Biden administration reports federal house arrest inmates will return to jail Tue, 20 Jul 2021 18:52:54 +0000

The New York Times reported Monday, citing officials, that President Joe Biden’s legal team has determined that thousands of federal inmates currently in house arrest will be returned to jail one month after the state of emergency ends. for the pandemic. No one knows when it will be.

Since April 2020, nearly 5,000 federal prison inmates have been transferred from prison to house arrest as part of the state of emergency established by then Attorney General William Barr. The aim of the initiative was to move the most vulnerable inmates from the highly contagious prison environment to their homes. To be eligible, inmates had to meet certain security requirements, behave well in prison and not pose a threat to society.

This issue of returning detainees to prison had been brewing for months. In October 2020, I wrote that some deputy prosecutors in the United States were casually poking fun at the fact that those who were housebound eventually had to return to jail. After the story aired, Family Against Mandatory Minimum President Kevin Ring contacted me to tell me his White House contacts said there was no intention to order inmates to return to prison and that they would be allowed to serve their remaining time of their prison sentence in house arrest. Then, a few months later, in January 2021, just a few weeks before the end of President Donald Trump’s presidential term, his legal team issued an OPINION MEMORANDUM FOR THE GENERAL COUNCIL OF THE FEDERAL PRISONS OFFICE on returning detainees to prison. . There was outrage in the legal defense community and it was almost a given that a more liberal-minded Joe Biden would certainly step in. Until today, the Biden administration has remained silent on the issue.

The position of the two administrations seems strange when the program has been so successful. When BOP director Michael Carvajal testified before the House and Senate in March and April 2021, he said that of the 20,000 home inmates (CARES Act plus those on home confinement because they were near of the end of their prison term), only 20 people were returned to penal institutions as a result of violations. That’s a 99.9% success rate.

Thousands of inmates have returned home, have jobs, reintegrated into their families and may now have to return to prison. The real problem, the grief, is for those who have years to serve their prison sentence … some over 3 years. If the detainees are to return, the BOP will be asked to pass judgment on whether some will simply continue with house arrest, as it might not make sense to send them back to jail … too few months left.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) released a statement from its president Christopher W. Adams, “There is absolutely nothing against President Biden commuting the sentences of approximately 4,000 people detained at home under the CARES Act. The President should act expeditiously to ensure that these people are not evicted from their homes and communities in the midst of their reintegration process. While granting clemency to these individuals by commuting their sentences will not change the fact that the United States is the world’s leading incarcerator, it would be a strong signal that the administration is prioritizing reform of the criminal justice system, over the second. opportunities and the importance of a powerful executive power of grace. “

The problem has dragged on for months. Inmates who are housebound, despite the green light given by Attorney General Barr, have worked hard to achieve house arrest. The BOP has pushed inmates, even sick inmates, out of home isolation. This has forced thousands of inmates to seek relief from the effects of COVID by seeking compassionate release in federal courts, which is usually reserved for people with serious and terminal illnesses. While some have been successful, many have not. U.S. civil liberties unions in parts of the country have also filed a civil complaint asking the BOP and some institutions, saying the agency is not doing enough to place inmates in house arrest. Gradually, the BOP released more detainees under the CARES law, but it was not without a struggle.

The Biden administration should act in this direction and allow housebound inmates, who are all in compliance, to be allowed to complete their sentences at home. In fact, the program should be expanded to allow even more inmates to serve their sentences at home.

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South Korean presidential hopeful wants to change attitudes about Japan Tue, 20 Jul 2021 04:01:00 +0000

TOKYO – The political climate is heating up in South Korea as potential presidential candidates draw their battle lines. The outcome of the March 9 vote for President Moon Jae-in’s successor will go a long way in shaping the nation’s political course for the next five years and have huge implications for Japan’s traditionally delicate relations with its neighbor.

As presidential candidates from all political backgrounds announce their candidacies for the authorized single term, a political neophyte has become a potential agent of change for the often strained ties between Tokyo and Seoul.

Yoon Seok-youl, the country’s former attorney general, launched his candidacy in June. Yoon, who resigned his post as attorney general in March, has apparently embarked on a delicate and risky mission of reshaping a political landscape long marked by emotionally charged arguments about Japan.

In South Korea’s turbulent political theater, heavily divided into liberal and conservative camps, an anti-Japanese campaign has often been used by both sides as a way to gain broad public support. The term “pro-Japanese” is generally used to stigmatize political enemies because of its association with people accused of betraying the Korean people by cooperating with Japan during the period of Japanese colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.

In major elections, including presidential elections, candidates often stress their tough positions on issues concerning relations with Japan and criticize opponents for their gentle policies towards Tokyo.

Moon Jae-in speaks at a campaign rally in Daegu, South Korea, May 8, 2017 © Reuters

This pattern continued for the 2017 presidential election. Ban Ki-moon, a former UN secretary general, emerged as a conservative favorite at the start of the presidential race. But Ban’s campaign quickly ran out of steam as his past remarks hailing a 2015 deal between the Japanese and South Korean governments on the wartime “comfort women” issue were used by rivals against him. A scandal involving his parents ultimately forced him to give up his presidential campaign.

At a press conference on June 29 to announce his candidacy, Yoon, the former attorney general who led the investigation into former President Park Geun-hye, said he would try to break with this political tradition. .

His reference to the song “The Bamboo Spear” during the press conference sparked much controversy. While diplomacy should be based on “pragmatism and realism”, he argued, “we got there because we kept singing the ideology oriented song ‘Bamboo Spear’.” His comment was a clear blow to Moon’s foreign policy.

The song praises the Tonghak Uprising (1894), a peasant rebellion in the last days of the Yi Dynasty to repel the Japanese invasion that sparked the First Sino-Japanese War. The song is known to inspire a spirit of resistance against Japan and arouse a patriotic sentiment among South Koreans. When South Koreans responded to Japan’s decision in 2019 to tighten control over exports of sensitive Japanese technology to South Korea by boycotting Japanese goods, the bamboo spear, a symbol of Tonghak peasants, was often mentioned. .

Yoon sharply criticized Moon’s foreign policy as being weighed down by ideology and separated from reality, blaming it for causing devastating damage to Seoul’s relations with Tokyo, which are often described as being in their worst condition since normalization. bilateral diplomatic relations. He argued that South Korea must continue “practical cooperation” with Japan for future generations.

As might be expected, Yoon’s remarks sparked a strong reaction from his liberal contenders and their supporters. Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, who posted the song “Bamboo Spear” on Facebook when Japan tightened export controls to South Korea, denounced Yoon’s comments. Claiming to be “stunned by (Yoon’s) perceptions of the story, which are similar to those of the Japanese government,” Cho posted the song to Facebook again.

Former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, known for his extensive knowledge of Japan, also criticized Yoon’s remarks about the song, which he said were incredible and reflected a “superficial understanding of history.”

Yoon was unfazed by such criticism. Regarding Japan’s decision to dump radioactive wastewater from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean after being treated with decontamination equipment, Yoon said the Japanese and South Korean governments should pursue the plan in cooperation with other countries while ensuring transparency.

He also said that such a discharge of treated water from a nuclear power plant has never been viewed as a major concern and should not be viewed as a political issue. Yoon has since been locked into an acrimonious debate with Lee Jae-myung, the governor of Gyeonggi province, which surrounds Seoul. Lee, the favorite among the liberal presidential candidates, is known for his harsh criticism of Japan.

Lee Jae-myung, governor of Gyeonggi province, announced his candidacy for the presidential election in a video message broadcast on July 1. © Kyodo

Yoon’s proposal to start “two plus two” meetings of Japanese and South Korean defense and foreign ministers is another sign that he is seeking a radical departure from the Moon administration’s policy towards Tokyo. . This is a bold proposition in South Korea, where there is strong antagonism towards the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, which evoke memories of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Moon was crippled by his campaign promise to renegotiate the bilateral agreement on the issue of comfort women. Moon was eventually forced to admit that this was a formal agreement between the two governments.

Yoon’s presidential candidacy could have a positive impact on the country’s politics if he is serious about ending the vicious cycle of antagonism between the pro and anti-Japanese camps.

He may think he can attract realistic young voters who feel a sense of stagnation by portraying himself as a hard-minded pragmatist focused on what is best for the nation and pointing out his differences with the candidates. ideological liberals.

Yoon, however, is not ready to promote a clearly pro-Japanese political agenda. To carry out his presidential campaign, he chose a memorial museum dedicated to a South Korean independence hero who killed and wounded numerous Japanese military officers by throwing a bomb at them in 1932 in Shanghai. The choice of venue was a calculated move to avoid being labeled pro-Japanese.

The main opposition party, the People Power Party, is seeking to reinvent itself by electing a 36-year-old political outsider, Lee Jun-seok, as its head. On July 8, Lee met with Japanese Ambassador to South Korea, Koichi Aiboshi. During the meeting, Lee expressed his wish to see the two countries help each other in close cooperation. Lee asked for Aiboshi’s support for his efforts to promote exchanges between politicians and young people from both nations.

Political experts predict that young voters in their 20s and 30s, collectively referred to as the “2030 generation,” will hold the key to the presidential election.

Members of the Korea Youth Climate Action Group demonstrate in March 2020. The group filed a complaint with the Korean Constitutional Court, accusing the government’s environmental policy of violating the constitution. © Youth 4 Climate Action in the Republic of Korea / Kyodo

While many South Koreans hold grudges against Japan, a majority still calls for improved bilateral relations. Yoon challenges the misconception that a South Korean politician can always improve his standing with voters by adopting an anti-Japanese stance.

Moon was considering the possibility of visiting Japan during the Tokyo Olympics, but decided not to travel. His intention, however, could be a sign of his concerns about the political implications of the Tory opposition party’s decision to redefine its image and platform.

Yoon’s bold attempt at political reform has the potential to reshape the country’s traditional policy toward Japan. It remains to be seen, however, how far Yoon is willing to go beyond simply attempting to topple the Liberal government from power.

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Reviews | Joe Biden will never cease to surprise us Mon, 19 Jul 2021 09:00:12 +0000

Gail Collins: Bret, you recently assured me that you were excited about Joe Biden’s big spending initiatives. Do I remember it well? And are you still part of the team?

I’m just looking for an update to brighten up the day.

Bret Stephens: Gail, I’ll get back to you on that in a second, but I wanted to follow up on last week’s conversation by sharing another piece of information about President Chester Arthur that I learned from a reader. As a New York Harbor collector, Arthur gave one of his favorite authors a steady job, a moody has-been writer named Herman Melville. It took another 50 years, when both men were long dead, until Melville was widely regarded as one of our greatest writers, proving, among other things, that our 21st president had a better taste for letters than for mustaches.

Gaëlle: I can see that one of our ongoing crusades in 2021 is going to be the elevation of the presidential position of Chester Arthur. A much better pastime than tennis or collecting stamps.

Bret: One day you will have to tell me what you have against tennis. When it comes to Biden’s spending plans, my feelings are mixed, especially now that I’ve seen the price. It reminds me of when my parents took me to FAO Schwarz, the Manhattan toy mecca of its time. I wanted all. I settled for a new Lego set. I think it’s up to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to be the parents in this scenario and tell the administration to be a little more selective in their spending priorities.

What is your opinion ? If you had to shrink Biden’s wishlist, what would you save and what would you delete?

Gaëlle: Well maybe I would start off by stating that we are going big and doing everything. Admit, I never thought Joe Biden would be a transformational president – but his vision seems fair for our time. The child tax credit program will lift many children out of poverty. The right to preschool and community college could transform the outlook for so many young people.

And you, give me two things that you really like and two things that you really don’t like.

Bret: My basic criterion is that I am for programs that create jobs and leave lasting benefits, especially large and essential infrastructure projects like the Gateway Tunnel project under the Hudson River.

Gaëlle: Come on, Gateway tunnel!

Bret: I am also supportive of investing in community colleges that help young people learn essential job skills.

Gaëlle: Always with you …

Bret: And I am against programs that have fleeting benefits and discourage work. So the program I am most opposed to is the Child Tax Credit, which looks like liberal nirvana but would be difficult to administer and has no work requirements, effectively reversing the gains made by the country after Bill Clinton’s welfare reform. I’m not too keen on the huge expansion of Medicare, another noble-sounding effort that will push an even bigger program in financial difficulty towards insolvency.

Gaëlle: Clinton’s welfare reform was an attempt to quell Reagan’s hysteria about outrageous “welfare queens.” I’ve always thought it was less about changing the system and more about changing the conversation.

Bret: Nice point, but if it is true, I wonder why the Liberals hated it so much back then.

Gaëlle: Obviously, it would be ideal for Biden to quickly put every low-income family on a program that would protect children from poverty while giving jobs to adults. But that would be a huge government lift: slow in deployment and so big and complicated that it would drive even moderates mad.

I would be happy to subscribe to that kind of plan for the long haul, but right now families just have to pay for food and shelter.

Bret: I agree with your first point. Large government programs always seem noble in theory, if only they weren’t accompanied by incompetent bureaucracies and unintended consequences.

My biggest worry here is that dramatic increases in federal spending, coupled with low interest rates from the Fed, will spur inflation in a way that will hurt the middle class and require a Volcker remedy before too. long time. Are you optimistic about the economy?

Gaëlle: Yes, if the government can give a helping hand, I am optimistic in the long term. And once things are on their way to a serious and stable recovery, we can start talking about cutting spending. But Biden is right: now is the time to go further and give the economy a boost.

Bret: Hope you are right because if you are not we are going to have a really bad time. I remember the soaring inflation in Mexico in the early 1980s. It causes people to make bad long term decisions to avoid bad short term outcomes, like spending rather than saving because their money just keeps on going. to lose value. It fuels dangerous populist political tendencies, as the Germans know from history. And the cure for sky-high interest rates can be almost as painful as the disease.

Gaëlle: Meanwhile, on a lighter note, the Olympics begin! Do you have any predictions or do you just hate it all?

Bret: I wish the athletes good luck, but I really deteriorated in the games. Too many doping scandals and questionable medals, too many Corruption to the International Olympic Committee, too high level athletes to walk away, too unreasonable abuse of young athletes, too much selfish nationalism. Maybe someone could restore the original noble spirit of the games, but I really find it hard to see any usefulness today, especially in an age when venues for top international sports do not miss.

Gaëlle: It’s hard to get excited about the Olympic Committee, but I still love watching young people compete desperately in… badminton. Or fencing or water polo. Just celebrate what you need to do to win some of the more obscure sports.

Bret: I’m just waiting for the Olympic committee to accept “Enraging Readers” as a legitimate sport so I can go for gold.

Gaëlle: I have to admit the Games were a lot more exciting then. We’re just weary of the world right now. People are going to fly into space and everyone is yawning and saying, “Oh my God, another rich guy stuntman.”

Bret: I’m the one raising my hand in case Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos wants the distinction of sending the first expert into space, and maybe leaving him there. On another topic, Gail, what do you think of Joe Biden claiming that Facebook is “killing people” with Covid misinformation?

Gaëlle: I believe Biden once agreed that Putin was a killer. Which seemed appropriate. But then, if you make the same accusation on Facebook, you sort of decrease the verbal aggression.

Bret: Yes, “Vladimir Zuckerberg” seems slightly offbeat.

Gaëlle: I can understand the chairman’s frustration. There are people who use sites like Facebook to spread terrible lies. Lots of digital leaders are trying to tackle it, but maybe not hard enough. You’re a lot smarter than me about this stuff, what do you think?

Bret: What Biden said was quite unfortunate. First of all, a US president should always err in defending the principle of free speech. I seem to remember a certain former president accusing the media of being the enemy of the people, which was filthy. Now, Biden has essentially made the same accusation against social media. Second, I think Facebook has already been far too active in censoring content, for example by banning mention of the Covid lab leak theory in February of this year until it is forced to lift it. ban when the theory became more widely accepted.

Gaëlle: You arrive strong. Carry on.

Bret: Accepting the importance of free speech means accepting the reality that freedom of speech will sometimes be used for purposes we abhor. We protect bad speech because we understand that the alternative, in the form of censorship, is worse. We protect it because we have the humility to recognize that what looks bad to many of us in the present may seem right to many others in the future. We protect it because, as Jefferson says, “error of opinion can be tolerated where reason is free to fight it.” Bad speech, like flies or mice, is part of the larger ecology of truth: to find out what is right you have to know what is wrong, and to know what is wrong you have to allow it.

If Biden had just said, “If you can get the vaccine and decide not to, then you have made up your mind: don’t ask for sympathy or money when you get sick,” he would have made his point. view much more efficiently. .

Gaëlle: You know, everyone always tells me that they love our conversations because we can fight without getting angry. But the fights don’t really work if there is no movement. I officially decree that you have scored the winning point today.

Bret: No, the winning points are just for tennis.

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Republican groups consider overhaul of school funding that takes into account student poverty | Local education Sun, 18 Jul 2021 12:25:00 +0000

More than a dozen states have passed changes in education funding in the past year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“We’ve seen a lot of organizations start to say that the weighted student funding model is the way to go. The other reason we’re really motivated by this is that we really like the idea of ​​lifelong learning reform and to get there the money has to follow the students, ”Sobic said. “On both sides of the aisle, there is always a reaction to parents struggling with the pandemic and what it has done to education.”

The Republican focus on education issues comes as the party seeks to rebuild itself after statewide losses in 2018 and 2020. The period coinciding with Donald Trump’s presidency has seen women in the suburbs flee the party, as evidenced by Democratic legislative gains in suburban Milwaukee.

Education was the most controversial issue in the recently passed 2021-2023 state budget, with Republicans increasing funding for public schools to less than a tenth of what Evers had called for. Evers eventually signed a Republican budget that pumped hundreds of millions of new dollars into the state’s funding formula, but due to state-imposed revenue limits, this will effectively reduce property taxes rather than reducing property taxes. add money to district budgets.

The budget also left over $ 1.6 billion in taxpayer money uncommitted, which Republicans have said they intend to use in the next biennial budget for a much larger increase in education funding. .

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Strange but true: Bernie takes a “very pragmatic” turn Sat, 17 Jul 2021 11:00:57 +0000

The episode revealed a conciliatory side to the liberal icon often portrayed by the media and Republicans as blind and far to the left of his party. Sanders has opposed some of the policies and candidates of Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, but never in cases where his vote is decisive. He also softened his opposition to a bipartisan infrastructure deal, acknowledging that he cannot alienate his fellow Democrats if he is to push his own agenda forward.

Yet the Vermont Independent is not quite ready for the “P” label.

“It’s not that I’m more pragmatic. It is because there are 50 members of the Democratic caucus. And unfortunately not everyone agrees with me on everything, ”Sanders said in an interview.

“It was important to have a vision of the future where we needed to go. And I think that was the right vision, ”Sanders added. “Obviously, it was a bit more comprehensive view than some of my colleagues. “

Even after two presidential elections brought him national fame and beneficial ownership of the American left, Sanders worked hard in the Senate minority with few levers to pull. This Congress, as chairman of the Senate budget and a member of Schumer’s leadership team, the 79-year-old is one of the most powerful people in Democratic-controlled Washington.

He also seems to be having a good time after decades of prowling the Capitol with gruff rebuttals for reporters delivered with his signature Brooklyn accent. After his interview with POLITICO, he was urged by another journalist to answer “another question”.

“She makes me speculate,” he teased the second reporter, his voice rising in playful disbelief. “Another question?!”

All kidding aside, moderates assumed it wasn’t easy for Sanders to give up his tough stance on this year’s massive spending plan, which may still be months away from becoming law. Tester, who quickly approved Sanders’ budget plan despite reservations, observed that Sanders “probably hesitated” to cut $ 2.5 trillion.

“Maybe that was one of those deals where it was, ‘Look, Bernie, if we don’t get this, there’s nothing we can do. “And he decided to move on with it,” Tester said of the haggling.

Yet senators on the Budget Committee saw Sanders as taking an extreme stance precisely so that it resulted in an all the more successful compromise for the Liberal Democrats. Had Sanders started endorsing Biden’s $ 4 trillion number, it is possible that he and other progressives had to settle for less than the $ 3.5 trillion they set their sights on. agreement.

“Bernie Sanders is like a human embodiment of moving the Overton window,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Who sits on the budget committee. “We wouldn’t be there without him spending $ 6 trillion. “

With a cap of $ 3.5 trillion, Sanders says he can pursue whatever changes he has prioritized, but not as long as he wants. This raises the possibility of future battles over expanding programs like the expanded child tax credits championed by Democrats.

Nonetheless, Sanders maintains whenever he has the opportunity to lobby “the most important law passed since the 1930s for workers.” On the price alone, he’s right: if successful, the current social spending bill will be the largest ever passed by Congress.

These lofty aspirations and his influence on the Democratic Party’s agenda make Sanders a practical villain for Republicans. The GOP tried to use his eventual rise in the majority as a line of attack in the Georgia Senate races – only to see Democrats win these contests, giving Sanders the budget hammer.

Senate Republicans are still trying to tie vulnerable Democrats to Sanders, even more so than Biden or Schumer.

“We applaud Bernie Sanders’ commitment to socialism and his influential leadership pushing the 2022 Democratic Senate candidates to the far left,” said Katharine Cooksey, spokesperson for the National Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

In addition to his central role in the Democratic caucus, Sanders also has the ear of former presidential rival Biden. Since winning the nomination and throughout the first six months of his presidency, the president has kept Sanders close.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain essentially had an open door policy with Sanders as he called for a $ 15 minimum wage earlier this year. This hike was eventually crushed by the moderates and the parliamentarian of the Senate, a blow to Sanders.

But Sanders quickly returned to pressure Biden to adopt extended Medicare coverage for dental, hearing aids and vision. In a private Oval Office meeting ahead of the budget announcement, Sanders “again championed this case with passion” and Biden “gave his full support,” a senior White House official said. Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said Biden “deeply respects Senator Sanders’ steadfast commitment to fight for workers.”

The expansion of Medicare is included in the Senate Democrats’ budget proposal, although it is not clear whether Sanders will be able to lower the age of Medicare eligibility as he had planned it months ago. Nonetheless, Sanders looks set to make a major change to a rights agenda. it has helped define the party’s legacy for generations.

For many years, Sanders played “a sort of gadfly role,” said David Axelrod, who served as an adviser to former President Barack Obama, whom Sanders briefly entertained during the 2012 presidential campaign. But now, He added, Sanders “has moved comfortably into the role of negotiator.”

“You see a very pragmatic Bernie Sanders, but he’s pragmatic in a principled way,” Axelrod said, observing that Biden and Sanders, “who really came from different parts of the party, came together at the sunset of their careers to do something potentially historic.”

When asked if Sanders was a pragmatist, Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) offered a “yes” cut for an answer: “I don’t want to get him in trouble.”

This isn’t the first deal Sanders has made, and it probably won’t be the last. In 2014, he memorably teamed up with the late Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on a landmark deal to reform the scandal-ridden Veterans Affairs Department. As part of the deal, Sanders approved expanding access to private care for veterans, a concession in direct contradiction to his long-standing commitment to single-payer healthcare. Sanders also struck an alliance last year with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) To push for new pandemic stimulus controls.

“He is obviously a passionate lawyer. But he also understands that this is a moment we cannot pass up, ”said Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, a member of the Democratic Leadership and Budget Committee. “He was able to read the play.

Sanders is already preparing for the next round of fights. He may have centrist Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) And the rest of the Budget Committee on board with his budget plan, but he has yet to convince the more conservative Democratic senses Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of ‘Arizona. Manchin said he had yet to speak to Sanders about the proposal.

Once again, Sanders draws a line in the sand, claiming he’s not going down $ 3.5 trillion any more. Time will tell if this one is real or tactical.

“No. Quite the contrary,” he said, hinting that progressive allies across Capitol Hill could push the price up. “We’ll see what happens in the House.”

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WCA Says Progressives Will ‘Tighten’ Infrastructure Bill Without Bold Climate Change Provisions Fri, 16 Jul 2021 10:03:06 +0000

United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Thursday that progressives would “pick up” the bipartisan infrastructure bill if Democrats did not also pass a spending package that included provisions on climate change, jobs and other liberal priorities.

“House progressives are rising. We will defeat the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless we also pass the reconciliation bill,” the New York Democrat said at a town hall. virtual, according to Bloomberg News.

In an announcement Tuesday evening, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the budget committee had reached an agreement to allocate $ 3.5 trillion to the spending program that would complement the president’s infrastructure plan. Biden.

“You add that to the $ 600 billion of a two-party plan and you get $ 4.1 trillion, which is very, very close to what President Biden asked of us,” Schumer said. “Every major program that President Biden has asked of us is solidly funded.”

The MP called the reconciliation package a “huge victory”.

“This bill is absolutely a progressive victory,” she said, according to NY1 At New York. “If it weren’t for the progressives in the House, we would probably be stuck with this pathetic little bipartisan bill.”

Democrats plan to pass the bill using reconciliation, meaning they won’t need Republican votes and can bypass a potential obstruction, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cannot afford to lose only four Democratic votes, according to Bloomberg.


The budget will cover the costs of expanding health insurance, tackling climate change, child care and education – all of the expensive items considered to be “human infrastructure” that Republicans have said they want. ‘they would fervently reject.

However, many details of the bill still need to be worked out.

“Yes [Sen. Joe] Manchin, and in the Senate, if they approve our reconciliation bill, we will approve their bipartisan bill, ”Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday, according to Bloomberg. “And if they try to take immigration reform away, if they try to, you know, claw back on child care, climate action, etc., then we’re at a dead end, that is. ‘forbidden. “

Pelosi also said Thursday that the House could “realign” some of the provisions of the Senate package, which could risk the support of moderates in both chambers, according to Bloomberg.


Manchin, a Democrat, said he still needed information on the budget plan before accepting it and was concerned about the fossil fuel arrangements that progressives wanted since he is from Virginia- Western, a mining state.

Fox News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.

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Economic Diplomacy: Little Australia Spends Slowly in the Pacific Thu, 15 Jul 2021 05:00:00 +0000

Baby BRI

It has now been nearly three years since Prime Minister Scott Morrison mobilized for the construction of infrastructure in China, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with $ 3 billion in various funding to create an Australian alternative mainly in The pacific.

So, it was notable to see that when the Council of the European Union entered this territory on Monday, there was no mention of Australia.

The “Declaration “A Globally Connected Europe” follows up on Group of Seven summit Rebuilding a better world response to the BIS and describes cooperation with Japan, India, ASEAN Group and the United States.

But the EU’s promised “geostrategic approach to connectivity” does not shed more light on money or practical alternatives than the G7 communiqué, which only raises the question of how Australia’s own BRIs are maturing.

The Australian Pacific Infrastructure Fund could be under pressure to step up efforts abroad near Australia just as banks and some construction companies have pulled out in recent years.

The Pacific Step-up involved $ 500 million in grants, $ 1.5 billion in non-concessional loans, an additional $ 1 billion in callable capital for the former Export Finance Insurance Corporation (EFIC), and additional infrastructure cooperation with the United States and Japan. But hearings last month on the Senate budget estimates found that so far only $ 5.3 million of the Australian Pacific Infrastructure Fund (AIFFP) grant had been disbursed for the planning of five projects.

And although 14 projects were approved, none of the loan funds were drawn. At the Blue Dot Network – a US-led infrastructure standards cooperation initiative with Australia and Japan – Australia spent just $ 200,000 on a scoping study of a project cable to Palau.

So it is perhaps not surprising that Minister of Commerce Dan Tehan announced unexpectedly Three weeks ago, Export Finance Australia (renamed EFIC) would gain the power to make equity investments in addition to loans and other export support. Tehan said:

The equity power would allow EFA to better support overseas infrastructure development and Australian export-related companies in areas of economic importance.

It sounds like a stolen version of the development finance institutions that some other countries are using to launch strategic value business ventures in developing countries and that some Australian aid experts have already supported.

EFA has become the advertised little workhorse of economic diplomacy with the responsibility of implementing a $ 3 billion defense export support program and funding exploration for critical minerals in addition to the Pacific Step-up role and normal trade credit responsibilities. For example, exposure to its national interest account – which contains the most strategic loans like last year’s $ 440 million emergency budget loan to PNG – grew from $ 610 million in 2018 to $ 992 million in 2020.

But it’s worth noting that in the midst of all the talk about strengthening China, the $ 1.8 billion trade account exposure in 2020 was actually lower than the $ 2 billion exposure in 2018. when the Pacific Step-up was announced.

The mandate of the FTA extends beyond the Pacific. But with the AFIFFP moving slowly, it could be under pressure to step up its activities abroad close to Australia just as banks and some construction companies have pulled out in recent years.

Little Australia

Although Australia’s population declined for the first time in a century last year, only 9% of those polled last Lowy Institute survey thought it was something to be worried about.

But the closing of the borders has nonetheless triggered a series of divisions in the management of immigration, raising questions about the demographic approach of “Big Australia” often favored by economic and security decision-makers.

Much of this debate was sparked by the release of the five-year report Intergenerational relationship which implicitly but quietly assumes a growing dependence on temporary migrants to make its 40-year economic growth, welfare and budget forecasts politically acceptable to the government of the day.

But swirling around this, we also saw:

  • Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Phillip Lowe has signaled that he is questioning the ‘Big Australia’ consensus by pointing out in a speech that low-skilled immigrant workers reduce the training and wages of resident workers.
  • Education Minister Alan Tudge halted the endless growth of overseas students in Australia by telling universities to focus more on offshore options using both online education and overseas campuses .
  • Agriculture Minister David Littleproud secured a new visa category for low-skilled temporary agricultural workers in Southeast Asia, perhaps at the expense of the more established and strategic employment program for workers in Southeast Asia. Pacific Islands.
  • A Grattan institute study demand the abolition of the investment visa for companies in favor of hiring more highly skilled workers, as “millionaire” investors are generally older, less involved in the economy and have poor English skills.
  • Lobbyist and former Coalition government member David Alexander call to the end the erosion of Australia’s “first world wage model” due to the overuse of imported workers.

It is too early to judge how these and other differences between experts and within governments will affect what is an economically and culturally vital aspect of international engagement.

The education of future Asian rulers may once have been Australia’s fourth largest export earner, but it was also a long-term soft power asset if done right. And some recent reports ranging from Export Council at Business Council / Asia Society Australia noted how the diverse Australian diaspora community is a valuable asset for trade diversification, which is now a key aspect of the national security strategy.

But the problem is not only a question of absolute numbers, it is also a question of the composition of immigrants. It’s hard to ignore the Grattan study’s argument that:

The closure of the Australian border to migration offers an unprecedented opportunity to take stock of the parameters of migration policy.

Unloading the bucket

Three weeks after the rejection of the Morrison government China’s dumping complaint as “petty,” the protest received implicit support from government advisers on economic reform at the Productivity Commission.

The Productivity Commission has long been a relatively lonely voice highlighting Australia’s massive use of dumping duties on imports into its country, despite being an advocate of free trade abroad.

China has complained to the World Trade Organization about Australia’s anti-dumping duties over Chinese exports of railway wheels, stainless steel sinks and wind turbines in the latest escalation of trade tensions after Australia’s complaint about China’s dumping duties on wine.

The Commission has long been a relatively lonely voice highlighting Australia’s massive use of dumping duties on imports into its country, despite being an advocate of free trade abroad. It is therefore commendable to see him stick to his guns in his last Trade and assistance review despite this time, getting into the middle of a bigger geopolitical power game.

The Commission points out that at the end of last year Australia had put in place anti-dumping measures for 72 products from 22 different countries, the highest number for products from China being 17.

And just to reinforce the point that Australia uses these measures more than most countries, it repeats its previous conclusion:

Australia ostensibly maintained an anti-dumping system simply because it was allowed under WTO rules and the arrangements – at least at the time – made Australia’s national welfare situation worse.

The next stop in this stalemate is the sluggishness of the WTO, where Australia unexpectedly lost a similar complaint filed by Indonesia in 2017.

Follow the money

While the new Trade and Aid Review is not surprisingly consumed by the cost of domestic spending on Covid-19 aid, it also marks the Commission’s first foray into reviewing foreign investment under an expanded government mandate. It contains a long-term analysis that shows how the inflow of foreign direct investment into Australia last year at $ 29 billion was only about half of the ten-year average.

This suggests that beyond the global investment slowdown, Australia’s swift decision in March last year to reduce its screening thresholds for all investments to zero to warn of foreign predators could also. to have contributed to this.

The Commission reiterates its concerns about opaque decision-making regarding foreign investments. But oddly, it doesn’t build on the further disclosure of the Foreign Investment Review Board’s latest annual report on what happened to investment applications that were specially vetted because of the lower thresholds.

As previously reported, the vast majority of these potentially “predatory” attempts to buy Australian companies devalued by the pandemic have in fact been approved with fewer conditions than those placed on applications normally considered.

But that doesn’t seem to be the liberal tone Treasurer Josh Frydenberg wants to give to foreign investment these days, judging by this recent comment:

I see more and more requests for foreign investment that are pursued not necessarily for commercial purposes but for strategic purposes, and as you know, I said no to requests which in the past may have been approved.

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Journalists Defend Texas Democrats’ Decision to Leave State: “They Don’t ‘Run’, They ‘Boycott’ Tue, 13 Jul 2021 16:25:46 +0000

Some journalists are even defending and praising the decision by lawmakers in the Democratic state of Texas to block the passage of Republican-backed election legislation by leaving the state.

More than 50 Democratic members of the Texas State House of Representatives fled the state on Monday morning and traveled to Washington, DC, preventing a quorum from being met for the GOP majority house to vote on the electoral reform bills.

As of Monday afternoon, some media figures were already praising Democratic lawmakers.


MSNBC presenter Geoff Bennett has apparently expressed his support for Democrats in Texas, telling a panel of Liberal Network guests that Democrats nationwide could learn from their actions.

“It’s interesting, because we should say, you know, the legislative system in Texas is very different from the legislative system here in Washington, but you have Democrats at the national level, and I mean Democratic voters, watching the Texas Democrats and say, not for nothing, these people know how to fight and there is a lot that nationally elected Democrats can learn from that, ”he said.

Other reporters took to social media to apparently express their support as well, with some questioning other reporters saying Democrats were “running away” from Texas, suggesting instead that it was in fact a ” power movement “.


The liberal Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah, former editor of Global Opinions at the newspaper, hailed it as a “power movement” and lambasted reports that they were “fleeing the state.”

Liberal journalist Jonathan Alter agreed, saying they were “boycotting”.

Rachel Scott, ABC News correspondent excited the stunt on Monday’s “World News Tonight” show as Democrats “using the only tool they have left to block one of the most restrictive ballot bills in the country.”


Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to hold Democratic lawmakers accountable to their constituents, telling Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Monday that they would be arrested once back in the state and brought to Capitol Hill to conduct business. .

Lindsay Kornick of Fox News contributed to this report.

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Mark Smith: What exactly is the Prime Minister’s problem with progressive reforms? Mon, 12 Jul 2021 04:00:01 +0000

Good news: there is going to be a consultation in Scotland on the ban on gay conversion therapy. Bad news: there is going to be a consultation in Scotland on the ban on gay conversion therapy. This is both good and bad news because the consultation will give us the opportunity to talk about gay “remedies” and what to do about them. But consultations can also be a sign that politicians are trying to shirk their promises. It is slow presented as rapid, stasis as movement, inaction as action.

We already know this from the trans rights situation in Scotland and the rest of the UK, in particular the proposal to change the law to allow trans people to identify their own gender. There have already been two consultations on the subject in Scotland, the second of which was launched after the first showed overwhelming support for a change in the law. The results of the second consultation were then to be “analyzed”; the government then said there would be no bill before the 2021 election due to the pandemic. And that’s how the clock is ticking.

I’m sorry to say it’s easy to see the same thing happening with gay conversion therapy. Nicola Sturgeon has said she will take action, most recently in April when she said the government would introduce legislation to end the practice. But the Prime Minister’s big promise came in the fine print. The law would be amended, she said, “if the UK government does not take serious action” and “as far as the powers of the Scottish Parliament permit”. It has also now emerged that there is going to be a consultation on the matter, which should set off a horn or two for people who think action is going to be taken anytime soon.

This time around, the consultation will be led by the Scottish Parliament’s Equality, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, whose chairman, Joe FitzPatrick of the SNP, said the committee wanted suggestions on the next steps. “We especially want to know who you think we should talk to about this important issue,” he said, “and who we need to hear from.” The goal, he said, was to determine whether making conversion therapy a criminal offense was the right course to take.

But why the committee, encouraged by the government behind the scenes, should go through such a process, is unclear. The Prime Minister’s opinions are beyond doubt; there is also a considerable body of evidence already. I recommend Garrard Conley’s Boy Erased book. My colleague Susan Swarbrick also spoke with one of the people who went through the process, John Pendal, who was told he had to “pray to gay people” every day for seven years. I also heard and saw it myself during an Alpha class: the founder, Nicky Gumbel, told me that practicing homosexuality is a sin and that the only way to be gay and Christian is to be single forever.

I would have thought that in a progressive country a consultation on protecting homosexuals from such practices would be pointless, but this is happening for the same reasons that a consultation has taken place – twice – on trans rights. The SNP has a difficult balance to strike between its progressives and social conservatives, especially among members of the Catholic Church in Scotland, who have been accused of promoting gay conversion by engaging in a program that advises gay people to stay single. And so, rather than big steps forward, the SNP is rather taking small steps. Or start consultations.

There are two problems with this approach, the first of which affects how the SNP behaves on progressive issues in general. They said they would reform the anti-progressive housing tax, for example, but it would lead to higher bills for some people, so they keep saying it but take no action. They said they would reform the trans rights law to make it fairer and more compassionate, but that angered some feminists, so they keep saying it but take no action. On these and other questions, the SNP speaks progressive but does not march progressive and it is because of its efforts to please the greatest number and upset as few people as possible and thus maintain the coalition for independence.

The second problem is probably deeper because it does not only affect the SNP – in fact, it is a disease of modern politics in general. Issues such as gay equality require a special kind of strong leadership, as liberal and reformist leaders are likely to be ahead of the general population. We saw this with Article 28 some 20 years ago, when the Scottish government of the day abolished the law prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality, even though a large part of the Scottish population, led by SNP donor Brian Souter, supported it. This is what sometimes needs to be done with controversial social reforms: directing public opinion rather than following it.

The problem with consultations, focus groups, studies, polls, petitions and opinion polls is that they can reverse this process and cause politicians to try to reflect rather than lead the way. opinion. It’s the wrong way on most issues and it’s definitely the wrong way on LGBT rights. Throughout the reform process, the Scottish public were deeply conservative about gay rights, but then when the law was changed anyway, they came back. The same has happened in other socially conservative parts of the UK, such as Northern Ireland.

The challenge now for Nicola Sturgeon is how she reacts to the longer term situation. There will be voices in his party, and the wider Yes movement, which will advise against banning gay conversion therapy, just as they have advised against changing the gender recognition law. It can be difficult to resist these voices when they come from people who will vote in a future referendum on independence.

However, eventually, the paved road of consultations and investigations and delays “due to the Covid” will end and the Prime Minister will have to make a decision. I have no doubts about her commitment to LGBT equality – she is part of the liberal wing of nationalism that has no problem with gay and trans rights – but to turn that commitment into action, she will have to resist the instinct of prudence. in the name of independence. She may lose a few votes in the process, who knows, but the next step in LGBT equality will require more than consultation. This will require decisive action. It will take leadership.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

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