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Forever War: Here's the Dark Truth the Unending Conflict in Afghanistan Reveals About the United States

August 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

Almost 17 years and, coincidentally enough, 17 U.S. commanders later, think of it as a war of abysmal repetition.

Fair warning. Stop reading right now if you want, because I’m going to repeat myself. What choice do I have, since my subject is the Afghan War (America’s second Afghan War, no less)? I began writing about that war in October 2001, almost 17 years ago, just after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. That was how I inadvertently launched the unnamed listserv that would, a year later, become TomDispatch. Given the website’s continuing focus on America’s forever wars (a phrase I first used in 2010), what choice have I had but to write about Afghanistan ever since?

So think of this as the war piece to end all war pieces. And let the repetition begin!

Here, for instance, is what I wrote about our Afghan War in 2008, almost seven years after it began, when the U.S. Air Force took out a bridal party, including the bride herself and at least 26 other women and children en route to an Afghan wedding. And that would be just one of eight U.S. wedding strikes I toted up by the end of 2013 in three countries, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, that killed almost 300 potential revelers. “We have become a nation of wedding crashers,” I wrote, “the uninvited guests who arrived under false pretenses, tore up the place, offered nary an apology, and refused to go home.”

Here’s what I wrote about Afghanistan in 2009, while considering the metrics of “a war gone to hell”: “While Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we've been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation.”

Here’s what I wrote in 2010, …read more


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Trump's Supreme Court Pick May Have Committed Perjury — And the GOP Appears to Be Suppressing Evidence that Could Prove It

August 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Sen. Patrick Leahy asserts Republicans were ready to request Brett Kavanaugh's records … until they weren't.

One of the top concerns of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding President Donald Trump's Supreme Court Nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is whether he knew anything about, authorized, or advised the Bush administration on their torture program for detainees in the War on Terror while he served as White House staff secretary.

In 2006, during his confirmation to the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh told senators, under oath, that he was “not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants,” and had no knowledge of issues about “the legal justifications or the policies relating to the treatment of detainees,” according to NBC News. However, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) assert that multiple documents and email chains show Kavanaugh was briefed on the issue, implying he was not honest with the Senate.

Some of the documents Judiciary Democrats say prove Kavanaugh's knowledge of the torture program, and potentially even suggest that he perjured himself in his earlier confirmation, have been marked “Committee Confidential” by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — meaning that even most senators are not allowed to review them.

Also of concern is whether the White House is playing any role in steering document requests. On Friday, Leahy submitted a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn, demanding to know what was discussed at a meeting between him and Judiciary Republicans regarding Kavanaugh.

According to a press release from Leahy, prior to the meeting on July 24, Republicans were prepared to ask the National Archives to release documents produced during Kavanaugh's time as White House Staff Secretary for former President George W. Bush. But after the meeting, Republicans refused to do so, allowing a limited release of documents curated by “a lawyer representing the former president.”

“In the 44 years I have served in the United States Senate, I have seen 19 nominations to the Supreme Court, including the nomination of every current member of the Court,” said Leahy. “I have never …read more


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CNN's Jake Tapper Mocks Kellyanne Conway's Ridiculous Claim that Everyone's 'Obsessed' with Trump

August 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

She made the comments Friday morning to White House reporters.

Kellyanne Conway called it “weird” Friday morning that everybody is “so obsessed with the president of the United States” — despite the fact that President Donald Trump himself is constantly doing whatever he can to draw as much attention as possible.

She made the comments to reporters Friday in front of the White House entrance.

“Why is everybody so obsessed with the president of the United States that they can't even begin or finish a sentence without mentioning his name five times? It's kind of weird,” she said. “And it's infecting people on the news now who fancy themselves security experts.”

On his CNN show “The Lead” Friday evening, Jake Tapper mocked the premise of her question.

“Why is everybody so obsessed with the president of the United States? May I hazard a guess?” he asked with faux seriousness. “Perhaps people keep talking about the president of the United States — the most powerful person on the planet — because he keeps making comments and taking actions that are shocking and unprecedented? Does that — does that make sense?”

Watch the clip below:

Related Stories

…read more


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Trump Is Actually Desperate for Praise for the 'Fake News Media' — Here's How You Can Tell

August 17, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Start with his own White House newsletter.

Mainstream press coverage of President Trump has been unfavorable. Thomas Patterson found that 80 percent of stories in the first 100 days of the administration were negative in tone.

The president has attacked the media as “fake news” and journalists as “the enemy of the American people.”

The president’s anti-press assaults are so frequent and potent that newspapers across the United States banded together August 16 to publish simultaneous editorials defending the press’s important watchdog role in democracy.

But for all the president’s complaints, he also craves validation from the media. Trump has given exclusive interviews to The New York Times and, in addition to loving Fox News, reportedly watches CNN and MSNBC every morning.

Trump’s quest for good press is particularly evident in the White House newsletters, a daily email update sent to anyone who cares to subscribe online.

White House spam

As a scholar of media and politics, I have followed the White House newsletters since the Obama administration began sending them in 2009.

The White House Communications Office produced more than 2,000 newsletters during President Obama’s eight years in office. They announced his daily schedule, made official policy statements and provided a regular diet of sleek presidential photos. At times, the Obama newsletter offered behind-the-scenes stories about life inside the White House.

The Trump administration has continued the practice. Its daily email is called 1600 Daily or West Wing Reads, depending on the content and the day. Occasionally, a newsletter entitled Resolute Reads appears.

I’ve never met anyone else who pays the White House newsletter much attention. But I read and analyze every email.

Trump's need for good press

The White House newsletter is a useful window into the Trump administration – just not necessarily in the way its editors may intend.

Early in Trump’s term, when the president cycled through four communications directors in six months, the newsletters mirrored the chaos in the White House.

They looked amateurish. Links didn’t work. The layout was cluttered and busy, and included unconnected, disparate events. Mimicking Trump’s voice, they referred to everything related to …read more


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Beware Labour's Karaoke Keynesianism

August 17, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Someone at the Labour party’s headquarters has a
rudimentary understanding of the Keynesian multiplier and is not
afraid to use it.

The party’s academic supporters have of late tried to
suggest the Corbyn-McDonnell economic worldview is nuanced, with a
sophisticated fiscal rule that recognises balance in day-to-day
government spending is a reasonable aim, and the unique
circumstances where spending more than revenues may be necessary.
Well, the viral video launched by
the party today eschews all that.

Instead, it’s the typical karaoke-Keynesian view
you’d expect from someone who hasn’t sat an economics
class. Freezing teacher’s wages will apparently mean less
spending on eating out, which means restaurants cancelling
renovations, which results in slower economic growth, means the
need for more teacher wage cuts, less teacher spending, more
cancelled projects, means higher tax credit demand, means more
spending cuts and so on. Austerity, it implies, has both reduced
economic growth *and* worsened the national debt. It’s a
false economy.

Now, let’s leave pure theory aside for a second. The
video, quite simply, doesn’t fit the facts of what has
happened to the UK economy since 2010. Precisely nobody thought
that running deficits at the 10 per cent of GDP the Coalition
inherited was sustainable, because it wasn’t. The Office for
Budget Responsibility estimated the vast majority of that deficit
was “structural” and would not dissipate as the economy
recovered. If you wanted to stabilise the debt-to-GDP ratio in the
long-term, as all sane economists believe is desirable, some form
of deficit reduction – restraining spending growth or raising tax
revenues – was necessary. If not restraining teacher’s pay,
then what? And if not in 2010, then when?

The logic of the video is that any spending cuts are always bad
for the economy, and any spending increases are good for it. Yet
good economic ideas should be scalable. Would the economy really be
growing gangbusters if we trebled teacher pay? Of course not. And
that shows the video is missing something. Freezing teacher pay
means a lower long-term tax burden, and that in itself has an
offsetting positive economic impact. It is simply bad economics to
chalk up the effects of spending cuts, without recognising that
those cuts will mean the restaurants, construction firms and
workers will be paying less in tax over their lifetimes.

The reality is that the Coalition government set out spending
and tax plans to eliminate the structural deficit within five
years, given growth forecasts, and to get debt-to-GDP falling again
by 2015. They front-loaded tax rises and cuts to investment
spending (the latter inherited from Labour) to achieve that. By
2011, growth was much slower than expected – and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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America’s Facebook Friend Allies

August 17, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Washington has been supremely embarrassed-by a nominal ally, as
usual. After the Trump administration insisted that its involvement
in Yemen helped reduce civilian casualties there, Saudi Arabia
promptly launched an air attack that slaughtered a bus full of
school children.

It was a demonstration of how America’s allies often cause
more trouble than her enemies do.

No country has more allies that the United States. The most
important ones are in Europe and Asia, though Washington also
designates favored nations as “Major Non-NATO Allies”
(MNNAs), which typically receive some mix of security guarantees
and financial support. Then there are a few informal allies, which
are security partners in all but name.

This list seems ever to increase. U.S. policymakers constantly
seek out more, rather like how many strive to increase their
Facebook friends. And indeed, many of America’s professed
friends have no more value than those on Facebook.

Washington should stop
automatically treating its allies’ enemies as its own

There are 28 other NATO members, including such behemoths as
Albania, Montenegro, and Slovenia. Recently invited to join was
Macedonia. Presidents have designated 16 nations as MNNAs, which
includes Australia, Japan, and South Korea, along with Egypt,
Bahrain, Israel, Tunisia, Pakistan, and Argentina. Saudi Arabia and
Taiwan are de facto allies, with presumed but unclear security

That’s a lot of charges for America to keep track of.
Unfortunately, many of these allies haven’t been putting
their best faces forward lately, which has caused plenty of
headaches for Washington.

Germany. This enemy turned ally should be the
cornerstone of any continental defense alliance. The Federal
Republic has Europe’s largest economy and population. It also
has a history of military accomplishment (though Germans are
admittedly uncomfortable pointing that out). Yet Berlin treats
Germany’s and Europe’s defense as an afterthought. The
Merkel government has ramped up military spending slightly, though
to what effect is unclear: the Bundeswehr lacks even minimal
readiness and could not be deployed in any serious fight.

Turkey. Having morphed into the caliphate that
the Islamic State only claimed to be, Turkey is growing more
Islamist and authoritarian by the day. The new sultan, President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, still feels the need to hold elections. But
they are mere formalities, with Erdogan having seized control of
the media, imprisoned political opponents, punished critical
businessmen, and silenced academics. He’s also treated tens
of thousands of people as traitors, prosecuting some, firing
others, banning travel by many, and scaring private firms against
employing most of them. At the same time, Ankara has undermined
Washington’s security interests, purchasing Russian military
equipment, facilitating ISIS activity on Turkish territory,
targeting America’s Kurdish allies, threatening U.S. troops
stationed with Kurdish forces, and confronting …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Denying Green Cards to Legal Immigrants Won't Fix the Welfare System — It Will Cost Taxpayers More

August 17, 2018 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

The Trump administration will soon place new limits on legal
immigration with a regulatory change that will penalize newcomers
just because they could use public benefits in the U.S.
The point, according to a spokesman for the president, is “to
ensure that the government takes the responsibility of being good
stewards of taxpayer funds.”

In the long run, however, the proposed rule will amount to the
opposite of good stewardship: It will cost the government, and
taxpayers, much more than it will save.

The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department
already consider whether immigrants are likely to become “a
public charge” before issuing visas to them, or granting them
permanent resident status (green cards). The administration’s
modified rule would codify that process, setting new, stricter

Leaked drafts of the regulation show that immigrants could be at
risk if the government thinks they might consume, over a
year, as little as $1 a day (for primary immigrants), or 50 cents a
day (for each person in a family of four), in public benefits. Even
the welfare consumption of an immigrant’s citizen children
— their use of food stamps, say, or Medicaid — would
count in the calculation.

Under the new rule, many lawful migrants already in the U.S.
would no longer qualify for green cards. It could put their
livelihoods at risk, turn some of them into illegal immigrants or
force them to leave the country. Their wages and their
families’ fortunes would drop, but their U.S.-born citizen
children would still have access to welfare. Those children would
become a bigger burden to U.S. taxpayers.

To justify the new
policy, the administration not only ignores the research, it rigs
the regulation to make sure it produces a negative result for

The new rule would also tend to target younger immigrants
because they generally have lower incomes than their older
counterparts. However, a recent National Academy of Sciences report
found that younger immigrants in particular pay more into the
system than they take out over the course of their lives. They are
also likely to have children in the future and, as the report said,
although second-generation immigrants as children “absorb
slightly more [public] benefits,” they also contribute
“considerably more in taxes during working ages” than
other immigrants and American citizens.

In the draft of the rule, the Trump administration explicitly
rejects crafting a regulation based on its long-term fiscal impact
because, according to the administration, “there is a lack of
academic literature or economic research examining the link between
immigration and public benefits.” On the contrary: There is a
vast archive of peer-reviewed studies that analyze the costs and
benefits of …read more

Source: OP-EDS