Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts

Friday, April 01, 2022

April 1: Nevada, Ukraine, Inflation, Syria

Democrats Worry That What Happens in Nevada Won’t Stay in Nevada Democrats have long held up Nevada as a symbol of their future. But as the state’s economy struggles, it has become the epitome of the party’s midterm difficulties. ....... Democrats have long relied on working-class and Latino voters to win Nevada, but the loyalty of both groups is now in question. ....... Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat and the country’s first Latina senator, is one of the party’s most endangered incumbents. ........ The state has long been a symbol of the Democratic Party’s future by relying on a racially diverse coalition to win elections, but those past gains are now at risk. ....... more than 28 percent of registered voters are now unaffiliated with any party, an increase from 20 percent in 2016 ....... an automatic voter registration system Nevada voters adopted in 2018. ...... they worried that they would not have enough money for the basics — rent, food, gas. .......

“I don’t know what the government does for us, even when they say they want to help.”

.......... Her father, Manny Cortez, was one of the most powerful figures in Las Vegas during stints on the Clark County Commission and later as the head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. In that role, he approved the ubiquitous Las Vegas marketing phrase, “What happens here, stays here.” ....... “Every data point I’ve seen points to Hispanic voters being more open to supporting a Republican this cycle than any in recent memory,” Mr. Hughes said. “If the economy is the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds across the country, in Nevada and especially among Hispanic voters, it’s the No. 1, 2 and 3 issue.”

Republicans Sense an Opportunity in Nevada’s Restless Latino Voters Seizing on signs that suggest Democrats are losing support among Hispanic voters nationwide, Republicans are targeting Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s seat. ....... Cortez Masto, the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate ...... Republicans enjoy a 9-point advantage over Democrats in the so-called congressional generic ballot among Latino voters ....... There are reasons to be skeptical of these specific numbers: The poll sampled only 165 Latino voters, and the margin of error was plus or minus 7.6 percentage points. And Latino voters are hardly a monolith — the anti-socialism messages that have appealed to Cuban Americans in Florida differ widely from the jobs and health care-themed proposals that are effective with Mexican Americans elsewhere. .......... Hispanics “a swing vote that we’re going to have to fight for.” ........ the shift toward Republicans among Latino voters in South Texas has continued. ..... “The problem for Democrats is they keep leaking oil against Republicans, and that is a trend that I think has been borne out over the last five years.” ....... Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general and the scion of a Nevada political dynasty ........ One book was called Picturing Frederick Douglass, who was the most photographed person in the 19th century. .

Transcript: Ezra Klein Interviews Larry Summers . For the last year or so, Larry Summers, the economist and former Treasury Secretary, has been this relentless, loud, frustrating economic Cassandra. He’s been saying often and to everyone that the risk of inflation was way higher than most economists believed. He flayed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan for being way too much stimulus too fast. ............ Month after month, he said that the inflation — it wasn’t just transitory. It wasn’t just going to go away. These weren’t just supply chain problems that would unkink. That this wasn’t just going to be a problem of autos and energy. That the markets were wrong, and the forecasters were wrong, and the pundits were wrong, and the Fed was wrong, and we were headed for a serious bout of inflation . ............ The idea of transitory inflation — that is gone. That has been retired. The data now shows that the inflation is pretty broad-based. .......... And it could be about to get worse. ......... But then Russia invaded Ukraine, creating a whole new disaster in the energy and commodity markets. Omicron began battering China. And we’ve seen huge lockdowns in regions like Shenzhen, which are critical for global manufacturing supply chains. So the disruptions — they may not be ending. They may be about to get worse. ............ I’m probably as apprehensive about the prospects for a soft landing of the U.S. economy as I have been any time in the last year. Probably actually a bit more apprehensive. In a way, the situation continues to resemble the 1970s ......... In the late ’60s and in the early ’70s, we made mistakes of excessive demand expansion that created an inflationary environment. ......... very difficult dilemmas as to whether to accept economic restraint or to live with high and quite possibly accelerating inflation. So I don’t envy the tasks that the Fed has before it. .......... the demand side is too much money chasing too few goods, or even just chasing the normal amount of goods ........ And then there’s a supply side. We are not being able to produce the goods. Factories are not being able to do things. There’s a war where an important natural resource is developed or there’s a lockdown where there’s a lot of manufacturing capacity. ........... Russia and China are adding more supply problems onto whatever we already had. ........ wage inflation in the United States was running at above a 6 percent rate and the labor market was only getting tighter. ....... a big driver of what we’re calling here excess demand was stimulus policies, credit policies, the Fed being really, really stimulative in the economy, the Biden administration putting out the stimulus checks, the American Rescue Plan being much bigger in relationship to the economic shortfall than say the Obama stimulus plan was. ........... People estimate that only about 30 percent of the stimulus checks were spent. So in terms of the impact on the economy, we’re feeling very substantial stimulus on a continuing basis for the next several years. ........ almost all forecasts of growth this year are forecast to say that the economy is going to grow more rapidly than its potential. They say that the unemployment rate is going to decline ....... there are things that feel just, that many of us have wanted for a long time. More hiring, wage increases, particularly at the bottom end, stimulus checks for people who have had a lot of bad years and didn’t have a lot of cushion behind them, child tax credit for families that could really use that. ........... this horrifying inflation problem, which is now eating back those wage increases, potentially going to require much sharper action from the Fed— I recognize the world doesn’t have to please me, but it is maddening ......... we care about is not just the level of employment this year, but the level of employment averaged over the next 10 years. That we care not just about wages and opportunities this year, but we care about wages and opportunities over the long-term. ......... the doctor who prescribes you painkillers that make you feel good to which you become addicted is generous and compassionate, but ultimately is very damaging to you. And while the example is a bit melodramatic, the pursuit of excessively expansionary policies that ultimately lead to inflation, which reduces people’s purchasing power, and the need for sharply contractionary policies, which hurt the biggest victims, the most disadvantaged in the society, that’s not doing the people we care most about any favor. It’s, in fact, hurting them. ............. what I did care about was real wage growth over time, average levels of employment and opportunity over time, and a sense of social trust that would permit progressive policies. ......... those vital ends were being compromised by those with good intentions but a reluctance to do calculations ........... wages are the ultimate measure of core inflation. Most costs go back to labor. ........ And wage growth had ratcheted up to a 6-plus percent rate by the end of the year. And there were desperate labor shortages, worse than we’ve ever had. And they were forecast to continue. ............ The long-predicted return to normal in used car prices, for example, is now substantially deferred. ........ And the good news — and this is highlighted by Paul Krugman and others — and they make an important point is that as of right now people are forecasting way accelerated inflation for this year. The market forecast is close to 6 percent. But they’re still forecasting more limited inflation beyond. And the question is, what’s going to happen to those inflation expectations? .......... will ultimately make it much easier to contain inflation than if we allow high inflation expectations to become entrenched. It’s precisely because it hasn’t happened yet that I think it is so important to be sending strong signals right now. ........ a consensus view would be that people learn from the past, because what else would you learn from? ......... If we would just live with a little more inflation, we could have lower unemployment and that would do so much for social justice. That was the prevailing macroeconomic theory of the 1960s. And that theory ended in the stagflation of the 1970s where we got the inflation, we got the acceleration in inflation, and we didn’t get any enduring benefit in terms of lower unemployment. ............. and create a need to do again what Paul Volcker did, at enormous cost, from 1979 to 1982. Most people don’t remember it today, but unemployment got to a much higher level in 1982 than it reached even during the financial crisis of 2008. ............ I think the developments in China, which suggest continuing interruptions in supply of a whole variety of goods have a reasonable chance of being with us for as much as another year. ........ I think one of the general principles to have is that things take longer than you think they will and then they happen faster than you thought they could. ........... one-year inflation expectations have shot up. But you look at three, you look at five, you look at 10-year expectations, they haven’t moved all that much. .......... the Fed has done more signaling of tightening in the last two months than any time in the last 40 years ........ The Fed going from saying that it was not going to raise interest rates at all until 2024, which was their position a year ago, to saying that they’re going to raise interest rates to 2 percent in 2022 ......... You’ve said, in an interview, that we’re going to need 4 percent to 5 percent interest rates, levels we’re not even thinking of as conceivable. ......... If we reduce tariffs, that would make more goods available at lower prices and perhaps reduce the Consumer Price Index by 1 percent or more. But their rhetoric has gone the other way on tariffs. ....... And, of course, the people who get hurt worst are the people who always get hurt worst. ........ Interest rate increases tend to have, as their major impact — a major impact — declines in asset prices. And assets are disproportionately held by the most wealthy people in the society. ........ Temporary tax changes on wealthy people almost all economists will tell you will not have large effects on the level of spending. .......... if you look back to say 2019, nonfinancial corporations had roughly a trillion dollars in profits. That had been more or less stable for a while. By 2021, they were a lot closer to $2 trillion. .......... Wage inflation is as pronounced a phenomenon as price inflation. ......... probably immigration policy, where if we could find a way to admit substantially more, particularly, but not only, high-skilled immigrants into the country, I think the benefits in terms of growth would really be very substantial. .......... we are way under-spending on fundamental research as a country, and by doing that are shortchanging one of our most fundamental strengths as a country ............ The government was more dysfunctional and corruption was greater when you had isolated state capitals. ........ I have the symmetrical humility to recognize that perhaps people should not pay great attention to my political advice, but instead should give more weight to my views about what economic science says about what the consequences of policies will be and undertake their own political evaluations. .............. I’m struck that when you ask the American people are you prepared to pay higher gas prices in order to sanction Putin, they overwhelmingly answer the question yes. ............ David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest” as an avocation of how the well-intentioned but overconfident, and overly dogmatic, and unwilling to hear contrary evidence led to disastrous outcomes. ........ Zachary Carter’s recent biography of Keynes, which I think demonstrates that ideas and even economic models ultimately, and over time, have larger impacts than maneuvers and machinations in small rooms, despite the fact that the latter seem more important at any particular moment in time. .......... Brad DeLong’s “Slouching Towards Utopia” ..... ..... how profoundly different the 20th century was than all other centuries and points towards the combined power of science and markets to change the world profoundly .

U.S. intelligence suggests that Putin’s advisers misinformed him on Ukraine. . growing tension between Mr. Putin and the Ministry of Defense, including with the Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, who was once among the most trusted members of the Kremlin’s inner circle. ....... Putin’s rigid isolation during the pandemic and willingness to publicly rebuke advisers who do not share his views have created a degree of wariness, or even fear, in senior ranks of the Russian military. ........ Mr. Putin seemed genuinely unaware that the Russian military had been using conscripts in Ukraine, and that drafted soldiers were among those killed in action ......... There “is now persistent tension” between Mr. Putin and the Defense Ministry ........ Putin had an incomplete understanding about how damaging Western sanctions had been on the Russian economy ...... Ukraine’s military has not only held its own but also begun counterattacking ....... afraid that the messengers of bad news will be ........ While Mr. Shoigu had been considered one of the few advisers Mr. Putin confided in, the prosecution of the war in Ukraine has damaged the relationship. ....... Putin has put two top intelligence officials under house arrest for providing poor intelligence ahead of the invasion, something that may have further contributed to the climate of fear. ....... Putin is continuing to be misled and that senior advisers are unwilling to tell the truth. ....... What American intelligence sources there might be in the Kremlin is a tightly held secret. But since Russia began its troop buildup along Ukraine’s borders last year, U.S. intelligence officials have accurately predicted Mr. Putin’s moves. ....... the moves are a further sign that Russia is adjusting its failing strategy. It is also possible that the shifting strategy is a sign of dysfunction and miscommunication in the upper ranks of the Russian Defense Ministry.

A humanitarian corridor is agreed on for Mariupol, a city under siege. Russian forces have diminished the once thriving Ukrainian city of Mariupol to a shell of its former self ...... a city whose prewar population was about 430,000. ...... an announcement by Russia’s Defense Ministry that a cease-fire in the city on Thursday would start at 10 a.m. local time and allow people to leave to the west. ........ Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said in an address on Thursday morning that a convoy of 45 buses had set out for Mariupol to try to reach trapped civilians.

Shaken at First, Many Russians Now Rally Behind Putin’s Invasion Polls and interviews show many Russians now accept the Kremlin’s assertion that their country is under siege from the West. Opponents are leaving the country or keeping quiet. ....... Five weeks into President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, there are signs that the Russian public’s initial shock has given way to a mix of support for their troops and anger at the West. ........ On television, entertainment shows have been replaced by extra helpings of propaganda, resulting in an around-the-clock barrage of falsehoods about the “Nazis” who run Ukraine and American-funded Ukrainian bioweapons laboratories. ........ many Russians now accept Mr. Putin’s contention that their country is under siege from the West and had no choice but to attack. The war’s opponents are leaving the country or keeping quiet. ........ “We are in a time machine, hurtling into the glorious past” .......... polls released this week by Russia’s most respected independent pollster, Levada, showed Mr.

Putin’s approval rating hitting 83 percent, up from 69 percent in January

. Eighty-one percent said they supported the war, describing the need to protect Russian speakers as its primary justification. ............. Analysts cautioned that as the economic pain wrought by sanctions deepens in the coming months, the public mood could shift yet again. Some also argued that polls in wartime have limited significance, with many Russians fearful of voicing dissent, or even their true opinion, to a stranger at a time when new censorship laws are punishing any deviation from the Kremlin narrative with as much as 15 years in prison. ...... many Russians had adopted the belief that a besieged Russ ......... feeding the Kremlin line that the West is waging an economic war on the Russian people. ........ those who still oppose the war have retreated into a parallel reality of YouTube streams and Facebook posts increasingly removed from the broader Russian public. ......... “There’s a dividing line being drawn, as in the Civil War,” he said, referring to the aftermath of the Russian Revolution a century ago. “It was a war of brother against brother, and now something similar is happening — a war without blood this time, but a moral one, a very serious one.” ............. most supporters of the war did not appear to be especially enthusiastic. ...... the channel launched a new program called “Antifake” dedicated to debunking Western “disinformation” .......... Antiwar protests, which led to more than 15,000 arrests across the country in the first weeks of the war, have largely petered out. .... at least 50,000 tech workers alone had left the country. .......... a local opposition lawmaker, said he had received about 100 letters asking him “to do everything” to stop the war in its first two weeks, and only one supporting it. But after Mr. Putin signed legislation effectively criminalizing dissent over the war, that stream of letters dried up .......... she also found that the police officers she dealt with did not seem particularly aggressive, or enthusiastic about the war. Over all, she believed that most Russians were too scared to voice opposition, and were convinced that there was nothing they could do about it.

Syrian Mercenaries Deploy to Russia en Route to Ukrainian Battlefields Syria has grown in recent years into an exporter of mercenaries, a grim aftereffect of years of war that gave many men combat experience but so damaged the country’s economy that people now struggle to find work. So they have deployed as guns-for-hire to wars in Libya, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic — and now Ukraine. ........ sign up to fight because they simply need the money and believe recruiters’ promises that they will have noncombat jobs, such as guarding bases or oil facilities. ....... “What we are seeing is predatory recruitment,” said Sorcha MacLeod, the chair of the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries. “They are taking advantage of the poor socioeconomic situation that these people find themselves in.” ...... a messy system in which men with few options scramble for limited opportunities to risk their lives for salaries they could not match at home. ....... Recruiters often collect payment for registration, and scams are rife. ........ The lack of other work and a currency collapse that has made basic items like bread and cooking gas exorbitantly expensive in Syria have driven up interest in Ukraine, with the promise of earning $1,000-$2,000 a month. ........ The roughly 300 soldiers already in Russia are from the 25th Division of the Syrian Army, known as the Tiger Forces, which are seen as elite and work closely with Russian officers. The Russians have offered them $1,200 a month for six months with a $3,000 bonus when they return to Syria, said the Syrian government ally. ...... Their families are promised $2,800, plus $600 a month for one year, if their loved ones are killed in combat, he said, adding that in Syria, those soldiers earn about $100 a month, while soldiers from less elite units earn less than $50 per month.......... A Syrian man who returned recently from fighting in Libya said he had gone solely for the money, but would never do it again. ....... He was happy to make it home and used his earnings to clear his debts and open a cigarette shop, he said. But his activities had left a social stain that could hurt his marriage prospects, he said. ......... He tells anyone who will listen not to go to Ukraine. “People who go there will die,” he said.

Having Won Syria’s War, al-Assad Is Mired in Economic Woes After a decade of war, the biggest threat now to President Bashar al-Assad is an economic crisis. But at a recent meeting, he had no concrete solutions to his country’s extreme distress. ....... With the rising cost of food, 60 percent of Syrians are at risk of going hungry........ the currency collapse that has gutted salaries, the skyrocketing prices for basic goods and the chronic shortages of fuel and bread. ....... he offered no concrete steps to stem the crisis beyond floating this idea: Television channels should cancel cooking shows so as not to taunt Syrians with images of unattainable food. ........ a leader who seemed out of touch with the real concerns troubling his people and helpless to do anything about them. ....... Even speaking in private, Mr. al-Assad stuck with the platitudes that characterize his public speeches. Wearing a dark suit and speaking with a professorial air, he blamed a range of forces for Syria’s woes: the “brutality” of world capitalism, “brainwashing” by social media and an ill-defined “neoliberalism” that was eroding the country’s values. ........ Lest anyone worry, he assured the journalists, Syria will not make peace with Israel or legalize gay marriage. Those are not the issues most Syrians are worrying about. ........... the Syrian pound reached an all-time low against the dollar on the black market, decimating the value of salaries and rocketing up the cost of imports. .......

60 percent of Syrians, or 12.4 million people, were at risk of going hungry

...... Most Syrians now devote their days to finding fuel to cook and warm their homes, and standing in long lines for rationed pita. Power shortages are constant, with some areas getting only a few hours of electricity a day, barely enough for people to keep their cellphones charged. ..... Desperate women have taken to selling their hair to feed their families. ........ With the $55 she got for her hair, which will be used to make wigs, she bought two gallons of heating oil, clothes for her children and a roast chicken, the first her family had tasted in three months........ She cried from shame for two days afterward. ......... The falling currency means that doctors now earn the equivalent of less than $50 a month. ....... The causes are multiple and overlapping: widespread damage and displacement from the war; sweeping Western sanctions on Mr. al-Assad’s government and associates; a banking collapse in neighboring Lebanon, where wealthy Syrians kept their money; and lockdowns to combat the coronavirus. ......... Most of the country’s oil fields and much of its agricultural land are in the northeast, which is controlled by Kurdish-led forces backed by the United States. ....... Last week, having arrested a young Israeli woman who had wandered into Syria, the Syrian government used her as a bargaining chip to obtain the release of two Syrian shepherds and 60,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines, for which Israel paid Russia $1.2 million. ......... Last month, Hala Jerf, a former news announcer on Syrian state television, posted a quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau on Facebook in answer to the question, “What is the nation?” “In respect of riches, no citizen shall ever be wealthy enough to buy another, and none poor enough to be forced to sell himself,” she wrote. She was arrested for violating the country’s “electronic crimes” laws. ........... Not far from the al-Assads’ palace, one father of nine earns the equivalent of $5 a day selling vegetables. His simple produce stand, with boxes on the ground full of eggplants, potatoes and apples, provided for his family even during the war’s worst years. ........ His struggles have left him with little patience for the government’s focus on political issues that do not affect his daily life, like the struggle against Israel.

U.N. Investigator Accuses Israel of Apartheid, Citing Permanence of Occupation Strongly denied by Israel and its supporters, the claim is the first time that a U.N.-appointed rapporteur has accused Israel of apartheid in such an unequivocal way. ......... have sought to recast the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a struggle for equal rights instead of a territorial dispute. ........ it met the legal definition of apartheid set out by international law. ....... The two-tier legal system enforced by Israel in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he said, enshrined a system of domination by Israelis over Palestinians that could no longer be explained as the unintended consequence of a temporary occupation. ............. “In the Palestinian territory that Israel has occupied since 1967, there are now five million stateless Palestinians living without rights, in an acute state of subjugation, and with no path to self-determination or a viable independent state which the international community has repeatedly promised is their right” ......... “The differences in living conditions and citizenship rights and benefits are stark, deeply discriminatory and maintained through systematic and institutionalized oppression” ......... Several Israeli and foreign groups have produced similar reports recently, including the international rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights group.

What if College Were Free? This State Is Trying to Find Out. As states take the lead in the tuition-free movement after President Biden’s plans failed to gain traction in Congress, New Mexico emerges as a leader. ....... As universities across the United States face steep enrollment declines, New Mexico’s government is embarking on a pioneering experiment to fight that trend: tuition-free higher education for all state residents. ....... New Mexico, one of the nation’s poorest states ....... A new state law approved in a rare show of bipartisanship allocates almost 1 percent of the state’s budget toward covering tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, community colleges and tribal colleges. All state residents from new high school graduates to adults enrolling part-time will be eligible regardless of family income. The program is also open to immigrants regardless of their immigration status. ....... The legislation, which seeks to treat college as a public resource similar to primary and secondary education, takes effect in July. ....... “The New Mexico program is very close to ideal” ....... New Mexico’s program is among the most generous in the country. ......... a state where Hispanic and Native-American residents together account for more than 60 percent of the population. ...... a group of Republicans in the Democratic-controlled legislature crossed party lines to support the measure. ....... the state needed people to get training in areas like nursing, truck driving and maintenance of electricity systems. ........ The program is unusually inclusive, covering tuition for prison inmates and unauthorized immigrants, as well as Native Americans from tribal nations whose boundaries extend into neighboring states, meaning someone from the Navajo Nation in Arizona can be considered a New Mexico resident for tuition purposes. ....... New Mexico now ranks as the second-largest oil producing state in the country behind Texas, eclipsing North Dakota and Alaska. ........ “We build the budget on $60 a barrel oil,” Governor Lujan Grisham said in an interview, noting that oil prices have recently been hovering around $100 a barrel. .......... The University of Texas System created a $300 million endowment in February that expands tuition assistance for thousands of students. Michigan provides free college to residents who were essential workers during the pandemic, while also covering tuition at community colleges for people ages 25 or older. .......... dissatisfaction with online learning, as well as the hesitancy of some international students to study in the United States at a time when immigration rhetoric has grown more poisonous, also drove students away ........ “Free primary and secondary education is seen as a public good no matter what walk of life you come from,” he said, contending that higher education should be viewed in the same light. ........ Recipients need to have graduated from a high school in New Mexico or lived in the state for 12 consecutive months to be considered a resident.

How Pandemics End An infectious outbreak can conclude in more ways than one, historians say. But for whom does it end, and who gets to decide? ....... pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes. ....... “When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they are asking about the social ending” ....... And a fear epidemic can have far worse consequences when complicated by issues of race, privilege, and language.” ........ The medieval pandemic began in 1331 in China. The illness, along with a civil war that was raging at the time, killed half the population of China. From there, the plague moved along trade routes to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In the years between 1347 and 1351, it killed at least a third of the European population. Half of the population of Siena, Italy, died. ......... The dead were buried in pits, in piles. ....... the plague recurred. One of the worst outbreaks began in China in 1855 and spread worldwide, killing more than 12 million in India alone. Health authorities in Bombay burned whole neighborhoods trying to rid them of the plague. “Nobody knew if it made a difference,” the Yale historian Frank Snowden said. ......... But while it still raged, smallpox was horrific. Epidemic after epidemic swept the world, for at least 3,000 years. Individuals infected with the virus developed a fever, then a rash that turned into pus-filled spots, which became encrusted and fell off, leaving scars. The disease killed three out of 10 of its victims, often after immense suffering.......... In 1633, an epidemic among Native Americans “disrupted all the native communities in the northeast and certainly facilitated English settlement in Massachusetts,” said Harvard historian Dr. David S. Jones. ....... The last person to contract smallpox naturally was Ali Maow Maalin, a hospital cook in Somalia, in 1977. He recovered, only to die of malaria in 2013. ....... The 1918 flu is held up today as the example of the ravages of a pandemic and the value of quarantines and social distancing. Before it ended, the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide. ....... After sweeping through the world, that flu faded away, evolving into a variant of the more benign flu that comes around every year. ........ In the Hong Kong flu of 1968, one million people died worldwide, including 100,000 in the United States, mostly people older than 65. That virus still circulates as a seasonal flu

The Library Ends Late Fees, and the Treasures Roll In The decision by the New York Public Library set off a wave of returns, accompanied by bashful notes of apology and gratitude. ....... Some items, checked out decades ago, arrived with apologetic notes. “Enclosed are books I have borrowed and kept in my house for 28-50 years! I am 75 years old now and these books have helped me through motherhood and my teaching career,” one patron wrote in an unsigned letter that accompanied a box of books dropped off at the New York Public Library’s main branch last fall. “I’m sorry for living with these books so long. They became family.” ......... When New York’s public library systems announced last October that they would be eliminating all late fines, the goal was to get books and people back to the more than 200 branches, as well as research centers, across the city after a year and a half of limited hours and access. ....... most overdue items are returned by mail or book drop, rather than in person ...... Before the change in policy, New York’s public libraries had charged overdue fines since the late 1800s. Early on, the rate was 1 cent per day. In 1954, it increased to 2 cents, then 5 cents in 1959. The most recent rate was 25 cents a day in New York City ...... After 30 days, a book would be deemed lost and a replacement fee would be charged. Fines didn’t accrue forever, but anyone owing $15 or more in fees would be blocked from checking out materials. In 2019, the New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Libraries collected more than $3 million in late fees ....... in 2017, the public library in Nashville eliminated fines, and those in Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco followed two years later. ...... “We are not in the fine-collection business. We’re in the encouraging-to-read-and-learn business, and we were getting in our own way.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Russia, China And Saudi Arabia: Democracy's Headwinds

The US has already made it explicit it seeks no regime change in Russia, it does not want to shake the applecart in China, and only wants more oil from Saudi Arabia. That is the restated official policy. And it is disappointing but understandable.

The hope lies not with this or that government but with the masses.

Democracy's headwinds need to blow. They need to blow all the way to organizing elections to a new constituent aseembly right inside the United States of America. America needs a new constitution. America needs a Philadelphia all over again.

If Putin needs to go, fine. If China needs to shake, fine. If Saudi Arabia is to become a republic, so be it. And if a new America is 100 states, then I am glad. This country needs to assert one person one vote democracy at home before it can lecture the world.

Cyber warriors not in communication with any government are already on the march. Half a million are ready to attack Russia. What Putin has already done in Ukraine is sufficient reason. Peace talks can happen, must happen, but Putin must go.

When you talk of political reform, you mean to suggest you want the best for that country. China needs political reform because there is no other way for it to go back to a 10% growth rate. The patriotic thing for the CCP to do is to break itself up voluntarily like AT&T.

Yemen is its own Ukraine. It has been the prevailing racism in international affairs that Ukraine is front and center but Yemen is nowhere to be seen. That has to change. Just like the fight for democracy in Russia is taking place in Ukraine, the fight for democracy in Saudi Arabia seems to be taking place in Yemen.

Assad belongs at The Hague. His war crimes can be proven with simple searches on Google Images.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Qassem Suleimani: Dialogue Beats Escalation (2)

Qassem Suleimani: Dialogue Beats Escalation

Waist deep and sinking in the Middle East: We're now at war with Iran the United States is at war with Iran, whether the White House acknowledges it or not. It’s the equivalent of Iran killing the commander of U.S. Central Command. ....... This war is not — and is unlikely to be in the future — a conventional war as American political and military authorities would prefer. It will continue to be internationally political, unconventional and asymmetric....... In Iraq alone, the Trump administration will be fighting this war in a vulnerable position with 5,000 isolated American troops on the ground, supported by air and naval power in the region, and an embassy fortress in Baghdad surrounded by Iranian and other enemies. ....... the U.S. is at war with a capable and difficult adversary that has options to attack Americans and U.S. interests in unexpected ways around the world ..... Freedom of movement is the most critical factor in evaluating success in any conflict area. From my experience in Vietnam and elsewhere, the U.S. was losing badly in both Iraq and Afghanistan by 2008. ......

What is lacking today from the Trump administration’s policy is any sign of a regional strategy for dealing with Iran and the growing American isolation in the Middle East. Now that this war is underway, how do he and his generals plan to fight and prevail against Iran? What are the political and military goals and objectives of American policy? How does this war end?

........ From the beginning, the Trump strategy in the region has been naïve and incompetent........ The plan to bring Iran back to the negotiation table on nuclear weapons is in tatters. The primary U.S. ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, is led by a murderous tyrant who is fighting a brutal and indecisive war in Yemen with American help. Given Trump’s hostility toward traditional allies in Europe and the general Muslim hostility toward American policy in the Middle East, the U.S. has virtually no possibility of international help in the region....... It is noteworthy that no significant Iraqi security forces showed up to defend the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad until the Shiite militants controlled by Iran withdrew from the area. .........

Today, Trump is trapped in a situation that Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon would well understand: Does the United States now fight and go deeper into the Middle East or withdraw under Iranian pressure? Given the foreign affairs and national security incompetence of this president, his disregard for professional knowledge and experience and his impulsive decisionmaking process, I have no confidence that this administration can handle the war they stimulated when they withdrew from the nuclear arms deal with Iran.

Democratic impeachment case collapses under weight of time By not seeking to compel numerous key witnesses, the House now relies on the Senate to complete its case. Since the House has maintained that the record overwhelmingly proves that Trump is guilty, the Senate could simply try the case on the record supplied by the House. Indeed, in the 1999 impeachment of President Clinton, Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Charles Schumer, fought against any witnesses and sought a summary vote without a trial............ In the Nixon case, it took three months from the ruling of the trial court to the final decision by the Supreme Court that ultimately led to his resignation. Even if the House had waited until October to seek to compel witnesses, it could have had ample time to secure rulings or testimony by a springtime impeachment. We will never know because Democrats chose to do nothing due to the need to get to a trial that they have now delayed. ......

It is like pushing for a murder trial before an autopsy is completed because everyone has holiday plans.

...... Those Democratic voters who supported this premature act will be left to wonder, as did Doctor Seuss, “How did it get so late so soon?”

Trump threatens hit of Iranian sites if country retaliates for Soleimani killing administration officials have warned of attacks of retaliation coming from Iranian proxy groups in North America and Europe. ..... The pace of developments puts Trump in uncharted territory with Iran. The president has staked his foreign policy on confronting Tehran with economic sanctions and tough rhetoric, but until last week had largely held off on engaging militarily.

Pompeo after Soleimani strike: 'The Europeans haven't been as helpful as I wish that they could be' the Russian Foreign Ministry said “such actions don’t help resolve complicated problems in the Middle East, but instead lead to a new round of escalating tensions.”

Bernie Sanders’s Antiwar Message Highlights Ascendant Young Left “Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one”........ “All of that suffering, all of that debt, all of that huge expenditure of money ― for what?” he said, referring to the Iraq War. “It gives me no pleasure to tell you that at this moment we face a similar crossroads fraught with danger. Once again, we must worry about unintended consequences and the impact of unilateral decision-making.” ..... “Younger generations, including young American Jews, increasingly recognize that the primary threats to average Americans are not foreign bogeymen thousands of miles from our borders but rather the domestic policies that threaten their ability to get an education, earn a living and raise a family” ..... “It is rarely the children of the billionaire class who face the agony of reckless foreign policy ― it is the children of working families” ...... “If killing bad guys were the way to peace, Iraq and Afghanistan would be like Switzerland,” Khanna added. ....

Solid majorities of U.S. military veterans, who have historically leaned conservative, now believe that the two invasions were a mistake

....... “The Sanders approach ... clearly has crossover appeal with those conservative Americans who want a limited role for government,” Sperling said. “Many conservatives are increasingly vocal about how continuing endless wars and maintaining hundreds of thousands of troops abroad at over 800 foreign military bases runs counter to traditional conservative values.”

War With Iran Will Be Like Invading 'Germany In World War 2', Claims Royal Navy Admiral West told the Daily Star Online that he believes it is “highly likely” that Iran will respond to the attack and claimed that the only way that a full-scale war with Iran would be winnable is with a comparable operation to the invasion of Germany in World War 2. ....... “If you want to have a full war with Iran, you would have to go to war-footing, call up a couple of million men, and fully take it over like we did with Germany in World War 2"...... “And the US are not going to do that, so in the end you are left with a festering sore." ...... “If you just are relying on a revolution in Iran, you are deluding yourselves", the admiral said. ...... hitting strategic areas would not lead to an Iranian defeat due to Iranians rallying to defend their country..... “We could destroy all their naval units, naval bases, airfields and wipe out their aircraft – but then what are you going to do? The Americans don’t want to invade Iran, if they did that they would have to go onto a war footing"........ “So what you are left with is a badly damaged Iran which would have the mild Iranians rallying to the flag and out for vengeance"....... Iran's ambassador to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi told CNN that the assassination was “tantamount to opening a war against Iran”. ..... “The response for a military action is a military action", he told the US outlet. ....... The strike against Soleimani was personally ordered US President Donald Trump while he was at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, without informing Congress or the UK government. ...... Tensions between the US have been rising since Trump's withdrawal form the JCPOA, resulting in the tit-for-tat seizure of oil tankers between Britain and Iran in July 2019, followed by a drone attack claimed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on a key Saudi Aramco oil facility in September.

Iran plotting to snatch Brits off London streets and fly them to Tehran as tensions surge GENERAL Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army, was among several experts warning holidaymakers could be targeted in Mediterranean and North African resorts in revenge for the strike ..... Gholamali Abuhamzeh also raised the prospect of attacks on ships in the Gulf, through which a third of the world’s oil is exported. .... He said: “The Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there. Vital American targets in the region have long since been identified by Iran. Some 35 US targets in the region, as well as Tel Aviv, are within our reach.” ...... Yesterday several rockets fell in the heavily protected “green zone” in Baghdad yesterday, with one coming down near the US Embassy and two near Balad air base, which houses US forces. There were no casualties. ...... In light of this escalating conflict military experts have warned British tourists visiting southern Europe, north Africa or the Gulf to be on high alert. ..... They called for the British Government to put pressure on security forces and the police in resorts popular with Britons to protect them from terror attacks in retribution for the death of

Soleimani, the second most powerful figure in Iran after the Ayatollah.

...... Lord Dannatt said: “I think we have to accept that everyone can be at risk, whether it is British holidaymakers in southern Europe, British interests up and down the Gulf, or British and American national figures. Individuals need to be alert but there is not much they can do ..... A source said this is part of an effort to bring the “transatlantic community together and find a way to de-escalate the situation, and deal with the threat from Iran but in a way that prevents wider conflict in the region”. .....Mr Wallace said last night: “Yesterday I spoke to my US counterpart Secretary Esper and we urge all parties to engage to de-escalate the situation.

US launches incendiary attack on Britain over Soleimani killing - ’Not helpful enough’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has launched an incendiary attack on Britain and other European powers for failing to provide sufficient support over the assassination of Qassem Soleimani....... Mr Pompeo accused Britain, France and Germany of not providing sufficient support.....By contrast he said America’s regional allies, possibly a reference to Israel and Saudi Arabia, had been “fantastic”. ....

Iran War frenzy: Fears dozens of US warships could be hit in revenge attacks AN IRAN official has claimed at least 35 warships have been identified for retaliation strikes.......

Shia militant group Hezbollah has instructed Iraqi soldiers to keep a distance of least 1,000 meters from U.S. military bases, starting from Sunday.

US-Iran war: FOUR devastating ways Tehran could retaliate against US after attack He said that Iran had been "goading Washington, goading Donald Trump", adding: "And of course, we don't just have erratic leaders at the moment in Tehran, we have an erratic leader in Washington as well."

Trump warns Iran if it hits any Americans or American assets 'we have targeted 52 Iranian sites' "For what it's worth, I find it hard to believe the Pentagon would provide Trump targeting options that include Iranian cultural sites," tweeted Colin Kahl, former deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. "Trump may not care about the laws of war, but DoD planners and lawyers do...and targeting cultural sites is war crime." ...... There are intense discussions taking place inside US military and intelligence agencies to assess whether Iran might be preparing some type of retaliatory strikes in the next few days or wait for some time ...... Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf issued a new National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin in the wake of the drone strike that details the attack and potential Iranian threat, including previous plots against US infrastructure and cyber targets. ..... the President said he doesn't want war but that if it comes to conflict, Iran wouldn't last long.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Qassem Suleimani: Dialogue Beats Escalation

This is escalation. Iran and the US have been going tit for that for a while now. Iran does something, then denies it. Then both powers wait, Iran fully knowing something is coming. Then the US hits, and denies. Then both wait. Both take care to make sure there is no all-out war, unwinnable for both, unless you intend to outdo Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which would be a political disaster for the US in the global arena.

The Iran strike on Saudi Aramco looked like a major escalation. The US has gone to war on smaller pretexts. And officially the US said this was Saudi Arabia's business. But that was only an attempt to relax Iran. Something had to be coming.

It is only a matter of time that Iran strikes back. But just like during previous times, it will attack in a surprising manner, and it will do so in a way that would not justify an all-out war kind of retaliation.

The sensible thing is for the two powers to talk. If the nuclear deal is not enough, talk about everything. Why not? But talk.

This tit for tat has gone for too long. And considering every round has been an escalation, every tit for tat takes us that much closer to an unthinkable all-out war. This is foolish. An all-out war will give the global economy a heart attack.

Imran Khan of Pakistan is in an excellent position to mediate.

The problem with tit-for-tat escalations is, it is fairly easy to miscalculate. You might get a war you did not even want.

Even the tactic of economic isolation and physical attacks aims to take you to the negotiating table. The idea is not that, enough of this and Iran will say, what paper do you want us to sign? So why not negotiate now? Why not talk?

Yemen's Roadmap To Peace
Kashmir Deserves Normalcy
Thoughts On The Middle East
Formula For Peace Between Israel And Palestine
The Stupidity Of The Ayodhya Dispute
Saudi-Iran: Imran Is The Only One Who Can

In 2017, when TIME included Soleimani on its list of the 100 most influential people, former CIA analyst Kenneth M. Pollack wrote that “To Middle Eastern Shi’ites, he is James Bond, Erwin Rommel and Lady Gaga rolled into one.” Inside Iran, his successes abroad evoke the past glories of the Persian empire that, in its early years, the Islamic Republic worked to downplay, because they predated Islam. But the ayatollahs have lately found an asset in nationalism; another poster memorializing Soleimani labels him “PERSIAN GENERAL.”
How Qasem Soleimani's Assassination in Iraq Comes at a Fraught Moment for Trump Yet the fact that Trump notified senior Republican lawmakers about the operation but left Democrats in the dark was a breach of protocol that heightened the political backlash. ........ Democrats say they now worry that the situation will spiral out of Trump’s control. Past Presidents didn’t make the same call when considering how to respond to Soleimani’s military sponsorship that has killed hundreds of American troops. “We didn’t lack for opportunities to go after [Soleimani] or other Iranian leaders, but we also understood the consequences of taking that action,” says Brett Bruen, a former NSC official under President Barack Obama. “And you only do so if you put in place a really sound, smart strategy.”

The strike on Suleimani was wildly reckless. Blowback will come That explosive national security crisis we’ve been concerned that Donald Trump would be faced with at some point in his presidency? It may be here...... the danger is that we’ve blundered right into something Iran is very good at: asymmetric escalation........ None of this was necessary or inevitable: Trump didn’t have to pull out of the nuclear deal, didn’t have to send more US troops to the region, and didn’t have to kill Suleimani. But we are where we are ......... third, make clear that the United States wants to begin a direct dialogue with Iran....... The reality is that we are in the midst of a full-blown national security crisis of Trump’s own making. And Trump’s incompetent leadership, derision of diplomats and the intelligence community that he needs now more than ever, and penchant for disastrous decisions means that this is likely to get worse before it gets better.

For many Iranian-American families, this moment has us sick and terrified It felt like the country my family had fled to had declared war on us........ The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ushered in a new era of hell and social dislocation for any black or brown kid with a Muslim-sounding name. My friends and I were profiled, harassed, and interrogated, in and out of school. Our parents were bullied and blamed at work, in public, on the news and in casual conversations with the white parents of their kids’ friends...... For many everyday Iranian-Americans, 9/11 also reactivated an old traumatic fear of being blamed and villainized by Americans for things the Iranian regime did. Many of them dealt with it by receding from politics in fear....... We fight for an American democracy that doesn’t seem to acknowledge us; doesn’t seem to even understand itself, let alone our people....... Childhood me didn’t know that in my lifetime I’d fight a Muslim travel ban, battle Iranian family separation, watch a historic Iran deal be created that was decades in the making, then be reneged on by the US one administration later. In 2018, I became the first Iranian-American elected official in Minnesota history. As a city councilwoman, most of my work is for my constituency. But my family stories and the fallout of US foreign policy on my life experience is what propelled me and so many others into politics........

For so many Iranian-American families, this moment of precipice has us sick and terrified. It isn’t just detached political analysis and smug Twitter takes to us. It is about a lifetime of broken US Iran policy shaping a volatile current we have swum in for decades.

...... Don’t let liars and warmongers justify more violence in our names. Don’t let our oppressors tell you that questioning yet another one of their endless wars is supporting oppression. ..... We need your congressional action, popular action, anything to prevent war with Iran and to hold to the searing light the truth about the path that got us here.

The US, Iran, and the fallout of Soleimani's assassination
World War 3: What will happen next after Iran pledges ‘vigorous revenge on America’?
Trump has created his biggest foreign policy crisis yet
Trump's opportunism could plunge the Middle East into turmoil
Trump Is Playing Chess One Turn at a Time An impulsive president tries to look tough without being prepared to follow through. ........ Soleimani was an exceptionally talented and skillful leader who inspired his subordinates and a larger Shia public. He masterminded forms of warfare that were not without precedent—after all, Frenchmen and Englishmen waged proxy war in 17th-century North America—but to which he brought rare skill and subtlety. Iran is a negligible conventional power, but through its mastery of sympathetic and controlled regional militias; clever use of technology (including explosively formed projectiles for roadside bombs, but also drones, speedboats, and missiles); and deployment of propaganda, it has become the most formidable Middle Eastern power after Israel. Soleimani was very, very good at 21st-century war........ Soleimani’s demise is not only infuriating but demoralizing for his subordinates. A web of contacts and relationships cultivated over nearly 40 years of chronic warfare will vanish with him. Like one of his Hezbollah protégés, Imad Mughniyeh (assassinated by Israel in 2008, possibly with American help), he will prove impossible to replace for some period of time, perhaps forever....... Iran’s reaction to Soleimani’s assassination is unpredictable. It could be an explosion of violence, or long-term revenge plotted and executed over years, or attacks on exposed American outposts in Iraq and Syria, or terrorism in other countries, or mass-casualty events, or the proportionate killing of a senior American general. Or the Iranians could simply curl up in the fetal position. There are precedents for that, too, the most spectacular of which followed the shooting-down of an Iranian commercial aircraft in 1988 by an American warship, which killed all 290 passengers and crew members. It was a dreadful mistake, and in the immediate aftermath the U.S. government braced itself for a wave of terrorism in response. Instead, the Iranian government seemed to conclude that the Americans were willing to go to any lengths to bring them down, and moved quickly to terminate the Iran-Iraq War on terms disadvantageous to themselves...... Indeed, in one of those clever strokes of theatrical violence at which Iran excels, in September 2019 a sophisticated attack on Saudi oil facilities showed just how much damage the Iranians can do. It sent a message to the Gulf countries that the Islamic Republic was not going away, and could do a lot of damage that the Americans could not prevent. The ambiguity of the attack—credit was claimed, implausibly, by Houthi tribesmen in Yemen, but no one doubts that it was Iranian-directed—may be a hint of what lies ahead....... Iran cannot beat the United States in the field, but it can win the war politically, and may very well do so......... And above them all is a mercurial, impulsive, and ignorant president who has no desire to be pulled into a Middle Eastern war in an election year, and who wants to look tough without being prepared to follow through. This is a recipe for strategic ineptitude, and possibly failure......... some of his seniors “were not complete fools.” However, he noted, "it was the habit of all of them to look straight, and not very far, ahead. They saw their immediate duties and did those, not vaguely or stupidly, but in an experienced firm way. Then they waited until whatever was going to happen, happened. Then they sized this up, noted whatever new duties there were, and did those. Their position was that of a chess player who had in his head no moves beyond the one it was now his turn to make. He would be dumbfounded when, after he had made four or five such moves (each sensible enough in itself) sudden catastrophe, from an unexpected direction by an unexpected means, fell on him, and he was mated."

Politics of Iran Iran has a democratically elected president, a parliament (or Majlis), an Assembly of Experts which elects the Supreme Leader, and local councils. According to the constitution, all candidates running for these positions must be vetted by the Guardian Council before being elected. ...... Emigration has lost Iran millions of entrepreneurs, professionals, technicians, and skilled craftspeople and their capital. For this and other reasons Iran's economy has not prospered.[citation needed] Poverty rose in absolute terms by nearly 45% during the first 6 years since Iraqi invasion on Iran started and per capita income has yet to reach pre-revolutionary levels when Iraqi invasion ended in 1988. ........... The Supreme Leader of Iran[11] is the head of state and highest ranking political and religious authority (above the President). The armed forces, judicial system, state television, and other key governmental organizations are under the control of the Supreme Leader. There have been only two Supreme Leaders since the founding of the Islamic Republic, and the current leader (Ali Khamenei), has been in power since 1989. His powers extend to issuing decrees and making final decisions on the economy, environment, foreign policy, education, national planning of population growth, the amount of transparency in elections in Iran, and who is to be fired and reinstated in the Presidential cabinet. .......The Supreme Leader is appointed and supervised by the Assembly of Experts. However, all candidates to the Assembly of Experts, the President and the Majlis (Parliament), are selected by the Guardian Council, half of whose members are selected by the Supreme Leader of Iran. Also, all directly-elected members after the vetting process by the Guardian Council still have to be approved by the Supreme Leader........ According to the constitution, the Guardian Council oversees and approves electoral candidates for most national elections in Iran. The Guardian Council has 12 members: 6 clerics, appointed by the Supreme Leader and 6 jurists, elected by the Majlis from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Head of the Judicial System, who is appointed by the Supreme Leader. According to the current law, the Guardian Council approves the Assembly of Experts candidates, who in turn supervise and elect the Supreme Leader.......

The reformists say this system creates a closed circle of power. Iranian reformists, such as Mohammad-Ali Abtahi have considered this to be the core legal obstacle for the reform movement in Iran.

“A nasty, brutal fight”: what a US-Iran war would look like The bottom line: It’d be hell on earth. ....... A deadly opening attack. Nearly untraceable, ruthless proxies spreading chaos on multiple continents. Costly miscalculations. And thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — killed in a conflict that would dwarf the war in Iraq...... Welcome to the US-Iran war, which has the potential to be one of the worst conflicts in history...... the Eurasia Group, a prominent international consulting firm, now puts the chance of “a limited or major military confrontation” at 40 percent.