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Saudi-Loving Corporate Media Pundits Run for Cover in the Wake of Jamal Khashoggi Outrage

October 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

As Tom Friedman of the New York Times (and others) furiously backtrack on the Saudi prince, an ugly truth emerges


No one thinks Thomas L. Friedman, the lead foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, has an easy job. I wouldn’t want it. Like his closely allied counterpart at the Washington Post, David Ignatius, Friedman stands astride the interlocked pinnacles of two powerful American institutions: the mainstream media and the national security establishment. He has unparalleled access to the innermost thoughts of the latter, and serves as the moralizing voice of the former. All of that comes at a price, perhaps best exemplified in Friedman’s use of a mysterious, pseudo-royal first-person plural.

Consider Friedman’s tormented column this week about how the United States should respond to the apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by forces close to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, now known around the world as MBS. This is the same prince, of course, whom Friedman lauded last November in a column he would surely love to scrub from the internet. Back then he praised MBS as the leader of an “Arab Spring, Saudi-style,” quoted lines from “Hamilton” at him during their lengthy late-night conversation in the prince’s “ornate adobe-walled palace,” and pronounced: “I, for one, am rooting for him to succeed in his reform efforts.” Here’s Friedman today, with the bromance breaking bad:

So, once again, what do we do? I don’t have a simple answer. It’s a mess. All I know is that we have to find some way to censure M.B.S. for this — without seeming to attack the whole Saudi people and destabilize the country. And we have to make sure that the social/religious reform process in Saudi Arabia proceeds — whoever is in charge there.

Leaving aside the maddeningly vague and deliberately toothless non-prescription on offer here — let’s “find some way to censure” MBS for allegedly having a prominent journalist tortured, killed and dismembered (I’m sure the prince is shaking in his handmade Italian loafers at that prospect) — who exactly is the “we” who must do something, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here Are Three Easy Fixes to Social Security and Medicare that Republicans Don’t Want You to Know About

October 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, AlterNet

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This isn't rocket science, folks.


Republicans would love to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. But they can’t, because Social Security and Medicare are among the most popular of all federal programs. Besides, most Americans have been paying into them their whole working lives, and depend on them.

So how will Republicans attempt to end these programs? By doing nothing to save Medicare and Social Security. 

The trustees for Medicare and Social Security – of which I used to be one – say Medicare will run out of money by 2026, three years sooner than last projected, and Social Security will run out in 2034. 

But this doesn’t have to be the case.  

Here are three easy fixes to Social Security and Medicare that Republicans don’t want you to know about.

First: Raise the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes.

This year, that cap is $128,400, meaning that every dollar earned above $128,400 isn’t subject to Social Security taxes. 

So the typical CEO of a big company, who makes over $15 million, pays Social Security taxes on just $128,400 of his or her income, a tiny fraction. While the typical nurse practitioner, who takes home around $100,000, pays Social Security taxes on every dollar of his or her income.

In this era of raging inequality, that’s not fair. And it’s not even logical. Raise the cap.

Second: To help rein in Medicare costs, allow the government to use its huge bargaining power to negotiate lower drug prices. 

Big Pharma has gotten legislation barring the government from negotiating lower drug prices. That legislation should be repealed. 

Big Pharma says this would mean less research on new drugs, but that’s baloney. Pharma already spends more on advertising, marketing, and lobbying than it does on research.  

Third: To deal with a basic reason why …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Donald Trump: The First U.S. President Who’s Openly Traumatized by ‘Saturday Night Live’

October 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

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He shows greater disdain for the show than he does for foreign dictators.


The end of summer and arrival of fall not only means cooler temperatures and shorter days; it also means the return of NBC’s long-running “Saturday Night Live,” which launched its 44th season on September 29. For President Donald Trump, a new “SNL” season brings with it the fear of being lampooned by Alec Baldwin—and sure enough, “SNL’s” October 13 show opened with a skit poking fun at Trump’s recent meeting with rapper Kanye West (played by Chris Redd). Baldwin’s impression of Trump has been wildly popular, but the president is not a fan. And Trump is the first president in “SNL’s” 43-year history who has been deeply upset by a humorous impression of him.

“SNL’s” lampooning of presidents of the United States is a time-honored tradition going back to 1975, when Chevy Chase (who was part of the show’s original cast along with comic giants like John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner) unveiled his impression of President Gerald R. Ford. Chase was unmerciful, portraying Ford as an accident-prone klutz who would leave the Oval Office in shambles. But Ford didn’t react negatively. He even appeared with Chase at a White House dinner in 1976, declaring, “I’m Gerald Ford, and you’re not” (a play on Chase’s famous line, “I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not”).

Actually, Ford wasn’t a klutz. He was an avid tennis player who had been a college football star, but showing that he could take a joke and appearing with Chase in public was a smart public relations move.

Over the years, “SNL” has lampooned eight different presidents: five Republicans (Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Sr., George W. Bush and Trump) and three Democrats (Jimmy Carter, Bill …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Need for Free Expression: Here Are 5 Highlights of Jamal Khashoggi’s Final Column

October 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

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The journalist advocated for liberalizing reforms in the Middle East.


The day after veteran Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was reported missing in Istanbul, Turkey, one of his colleagues at the Post—Global Opinions Editor Karen Attiah—received what turned out to be his final column, which was written in Arabic but translated into English by Khashoggi’s assistant. Attiah, initially, held off on running the piece, hoping that Khashoggi (who lived in Washington, DC’s Virginia suburbs) would be returning to the U.S. and that they could edit it together. But two weeks after Khashoggi’s disappearance—with Turkish government officials alleging that he had been viciously tortured and murdered by Saudi agents inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2—it became painfully obvious that Khashoggi would not be coming back. And the Post went ahead and published his final column the evening of Wednesday, October 17 with the headline, “What the Arab World Needs Most Is Free Expression.”

Attiah explained, “This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.”

Here are five of the most important points that Jamal Khashoggi made in his final column for the Washington Post.

1. Democracy Is in Short Supply in the Arab World

Khashoggi’s final column addresses human rights, which is bitterly ironic in light of Turkish government officials’ allegation that he was murdered by Saudi agents on orders from the Saudi royal family. Khashoggi opens the column by discussing Freedom House’s 2018 Freedom in the World Report and …read more

Source: ALTERNET