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Ted Cruz Loses His Cool With A Voter Who Actually Challenges Him On Syria

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 23:09

SALEM, N.H. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Friday got into a heated exchange with a voter who accused him of supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"I came from New Jersey to ask this question because it's so important to me," said John Davenport, a Fordham University professor who directs the school's peace and justice studies, during a town hall at Lancaster Elementary featuring the GOP presidential candidate.  

"Supporting Assad is a mistake. He's the reason that ISIS exists in the beginning. What are you doing?" asked Davenport, who based his allegation that Cruz supports Assad on the failure of Congress to remove the Syrian leader from power.

Cruz, responding sarcastically, asked Davenport if he was undecided. When Davenport tried to respond, the crowd booed. One woman stood and yelled, “Stop it, and take your lithium."

“Even if others don’t show respect, we will show respect of civil discourse,” Cruz said. “This is how the First Amendment operates. I’m happy to have a respectful conversation.

“Now, your question begins with a false premise,” Cruz said to Davenport. “You asked me if I’m supporting Assad. I’m not supporting Assad.”

Cruz' standing in New Hampshire has slumped this month, according to HuffPost Pollster's aggregation of all available polls, putting him in third place in the GOP race in the final days before the primary.

The hostile exchange went back and forth for more than 10 minutes. As Davenport tried to elaborate, Cruz raised his voice and said sharply: “Sir, I’m happy to answer your question, but we are not having a debate.”

Cruz said President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the 2011 NATO effort to topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, claiming the intervention created a vacuum that allowed the rise of radical Islamic terrorists. He suggested the same thing would happen in Syria if the U.S. ousted Assad.

Davenport passionately explained that Assad had killed 200,000 innocent Syrians. Cruz cut him off.

“We will not have a debate, Sir. I will answer it, but I will not have a yelling match,” Cruz said forcefully, as Davenport again tried to get a word in. “Alright, this answer is over,” Cruz shouted as the crowd erupted in applause.

Davenport, 49, admitted his passion got the best of him.

“People are mad at me because I sounded angry tonight,” Davenport said later. “I wasn’t yelling obscenities. I’ll say for the record, there’s nothing more obscene in this world than hearing a politician support genocide. I got too angry because I care so much.”

Davenport said Cruz' answer contradicted statements he had made in the past.

“He said he doesn’t support Assad, but he wouldn’t take any actions to remove him from power,” Davenport said. “That’s basically putting him in alliance with Putin.”

Davenport, who said he considers himself a moderate independent, said other presidential candidates have views on Syria he finds more appealing.  

“Marco Rubio does seem to take the right line on Assad, at least pretty close to it for that matter,” Davenport said. “So does Hillary Clinton, but not Bernie Sanders.”

With foreign policy playing a major role in the 2016 election, Davenport said that Cruz, along with other candidates, are overlooking Assad’s role in ISIS recruitment of Sunni fighters.

“Senator Cruz talks about attacking the root their ideology by keeping in place the very thing that fuels them,” Davenport said. "I don’t get why American politicians don’t understand that.”

Davenport acknowledged his exchange with Cruz caused quite a scene, but said he’ll continue to question presidential candidates on the topic to inform voters.

“I do care very much about fundamental human rights and genocide,” Davenport explained. “I don’t want to see any American politician ever coming close to accepting that as a reality, let alone saying how Christian they are in the process.”

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Did Hillary Clinton Really Win Iowa? New Errors Detected in Caucus Results

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 22:17
Today, Iowa Democratic Party officials reported errors in the state's caucus results. The news comes just days after Hillary Clinton was named the official winner in Iowa. Defeating Bernie Sanders by two tenths of one percent, she took home 23 of the state's 44 delegates. Bernie Sanders was awarded the remaining 21 delegates.

However, those numbers are now subject to change, in light of newly confirmed discrepancies in the caucus results. According to one precinct secretary, the results announced at his precinct don't match those released by the Iowa Democratic Party. Discrepancies like these are currently under review.

The final tally is likely to change.


The author of this post is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund an entire series of animated rap videos about Bernie Sanders and the 2016 election.

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How Real Is 'Marcomentum'?

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 20:38

DERRY, N.H. -- Admittedly, a Jeb Bush town hall and a Chris Christie restaurant visit are bad places to look for Marco Rubio voters.

And yet there I was, practically begging New Hampshire voters to tell me they had been leaning toward one of those GOP establishment candidates, but were now lining up behind Rubio to take down Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

“What do you make of the argument that establishment Republicans need to get behind Rubio because he’s the only one who can beat Trump?” I asked, over and over, in some form or another, feeling as if the Rubio campaign should probably start paying me.

But in spite of my most flawed interview techniques, I was getting an interesting answer.

Sorry, New Hampshire voters would say, knowing they were stepping all over my tidy little narrative.

Rubio’s too inexperienced.

He’s too immature.

I want someone who’s been a governor.

Maybe in four years.

They just didn’t seem to like him. The narrative that said they were supposed to peel off their Christie or John Kasich bumper stickers, turn in their Jeb! lawn signs, and get on the Rubio bandwagon hadn’t reached them.

Had they missed the tweets? Didn’t they see Marco’s (third-place) victory speech in Iowa? Could they have actually missed "Hardball"?

I don’t mean to suggest Rubio is less popular than the polls here say. This isn’t an #unskew argument. A new Suffolk poll released Friday has Rubio surging, gaining on Trump. And I eventually found some Rubio supporters. I even found people who perfectly fit my narrative -- that they liked the Christies and the Kasichs, but Rubio was their guy. I only had to go to a Marco Rubio rally to find them.

What I want to suggest, however, is this: There are still a lot of New Hampshire voters who are going to support the candidate they feel strongest about, despite a seemingly hopeless position in the polls.

If you believe the polls -- and I see no compelling reason not to -- Rubio is going to come out of New Hampshire ordained as the establishment candidate. I’m just not sure the bandwagon effect is as strong as Rubio’s campaign is making it out to be.

On Friday, the campaign moved an event from a middle school cafeteria to the gymnasium, citing “Marcomentum.”

And at that rally, I heard plenty of voters tell me they want to pick a winner, someone who is viable, someone who can beat Trump and Hillary Clinton.

But having spent the first 22 years of my life in New Hampshire, I’m familiar with the fierce independence of Granite State voters. As Howard Fineman pointed out in a piece Friday, voters here like to defy the conventional wisdom. And as these voters reminded me again and again, seeing candidates, shaking their hands, asking questions, taking pictures with them, and even withstanding a convenient Beltway narrative -- none of that seemed to have much of an impact on who they were voting for.

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Leading the March Towards Criminal Justice

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 20:19

Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice... I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

-- Bryan Stevenson, Author of Just Mercy and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative

Bryan Stevenson’s inspiring and best-selling book Just Mercy shares some of the fruits of his lifelong fight to push our nation closer to true justice. In January our nation took two more steps forward in the ongoing struggle to treat children like children and ensure a fairer justice system for all, especially for our poor and those of color.

In 2012 Bryan Stevenson won the landmark United States Supreme Court case Miller v. Alabama banning mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for children 17-years-old and younger. Until then the United States was the only country in the world that routinely condemned children convicted of crimes as young as 13 and 14 to die in prison. After that ruling most states that had sentenced youths to mandatory life sentences gave them the opportunity to argue for reduced sentences or apply for parole. Seven did not: Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and Pennsylvania. Three of these, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Michigan, accounted for more than 1,100 of the 1,200-1,500 inmates still imprisoned for crimes committed as children. A January 25 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Montgomery v. Louisiana made clear that the Miller decision must be applied retroactively in every state. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the decision, “The opportunity for release will be afforded to those who demonstrate the truth of Miller’s central intuition — that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change.”

One of Bryan Stevenson’s searing stories in Just Mercy is about a child sentenced to life in prison without parole. Ian Manuel pled guilty to armed robbery and attempted murder for a crime he committed with two older boys when he was thirteen. He was incarcerated at Apalachee Correctional Institution in Florida, an adult prison, and sent to solitary confinement: “Solitary confinement at Apalachee means living in a concrete box the size of a walk-in closet . . . If you shout or scream, your time in solitary is extended; if you hurt yourself by refusing to eat or mutilating your body, your time in solitary is extended . . . In solitary Ian became a self-described ‘cutter’; he would take anything sharp on his food tray to cut his wrists and arms just to watch himself bleed. His mental health unraveled, and he attempted suicide several times. Each time he hurt himself or acted out, his time in isolation was extended. Ian spent 18 years in uninterrupted solitary confinement”—despite calls from even his victim about his inhumane confinement.

Tragically Ian Manuel’s story is not unique. The same day the U.S. Supreme Court decided Montgomery v. Louisiana, President Obama announced a ban on solitary confinement in the federal prison system for all children and youths, and for adults incarcerated for “low-level infractions” in an executive action that should serve as a model for all states and local jurisdictions. The President wrote solitary confinement “has been linked to depression, alienation, withdrawal, a reduced ability to interact with others and the potential for violent behavior. Some studies indicate that it can worsen existing mental illnesses and even trigger new ones. Prisoners in solitary are more likely to commit suicide, especially juveniles and people with mental illnesses. The United States is a nation of second chances, but the experience of solitary confinement too often undercuts that second chance. . . . In America, we believe in redemption. We believe, in the words of Pope Francis, that ‘every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.’ We believe that when people make mistakes, they deserve the opportunity to remake their lives. And if we can give them the hope of a better future, and a way to get back on their feet, then we will leave our children with a country that is safer, stronger and worthy of our highest ideals.”

Reaching that vision of America—the one that believes in redemption and hope and equal justice for all—is the goal Bryan Stevenson has been striving for throughout his life. His critical victories over 30 years exonerating innocent death row prisoners and helping ensure fairer treatment for others, along with his earlier success before the U.S. Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons that banned the execution of children have convinced him you cannot make a difference and create justice until you get close to the people who are struggling. He has said, “All of my clients are broken. They’ve been broken by poverty. They’ve been broken by racism. They’ve been broken by inequality. They’ve been broken by injustice. . . . When you’re broken you need grace. When you’re broken you need love. When you’re broken you need fellowship. When you’re broken you need understanding. When you’re broken you need vision.” Bryan Stevenson is unwavering in that vision and in lifting his voice of great moral clarity at the forefront of the struggle. Every new hard-earned and overdue victory should remind us all that we must keep moving towards greater justice for all.

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Weekend Roundup: The Pope Blesses China

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 20:15
Many seem to fear the rise of China as a challenge to the West. Not Pope Francis.
In a remarkable interview published this week in Asia Times, he takes the long view, transcending contemporary geopolitics and embracing the return of the Middle Kingdom's ancient civilization to the global stage as enriching for us all.

"For me, China has always been a reference point of greatness," the pontiff was quoted as saying. "A great country. But more than a country, a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom." It was the first time in 2,000 years that a pope had extended greetings on the Lunar New Year to a Chinese leader. In the interview, Francis referred to the experience of Matteo Ricci, the 16th century Jesuit missionary who in many ways introduced China to the West. "Ricci's experience teaches us that it is necessary to enter into dialogue with China, because it is an accumulation of wisdom and history." We in the West, he further said, have a "duty to respect it with a capital 'R'."

Writing from Rome for our "Following Francis" series, Sébastien Maillard explains why the pope is "looking East" to Russia and China, including talk of a possible compromise with Beijing that would allow the Vatican to once again appoint bishops there.

Former Hong Kong governor C.H. Tung also invokes history to make his case that China has no desire for world leadership today. "At the height of the Ming Dynasty, when China had 30 percent of the GDP of the world, China remained peaceful and did not make incursions into foreign lands," he writes.

Those who aren't concerned about China's rise are concerned about its demise as the rapid growth of past decades slows. Writing from Beijing, Justin Yifu Lin tells us not to worry. With plenty of capital to invest and through a turn toward consumption and services, says Lin, China will be able to reach its 6.5 percent growth target. It "will continue to be the main growth engine in the world, contributing around 30 percent of global growth annually." In a gallery of images from a new book by China Digital Times, Sophie Beach displays the popular protest cartoons of Chinese illustrator Badiucao.

In the U.S. presidential primary caucuses in Iowa this week, voters demoted Donald Trump, America's top China-basher, knocking him down to second place just ahead of another China foe, Marco Rubio, both falling behind the first place finish for Republicans of evangelical crusader Ted Cruz. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton squeaked by left-wing populist Bernie Sanders. These results prompted veteran analyst Jeff Greenfield to posit that "anger could prove to be the driving force of the primaries." For Greenfield, the votes ahead will answer these consequential questions: "Just how disaffected is the American electorate? Is disaffection deep and powerful enough to render the traditional assets of a potential president -- experience, temperament, solidity -- an actual liability?" Former Obama adviser Ben LaBolt concurs. "Extreme populism has been on the rise in Europe," he writes, and Sanders and the Republican frontrunners "are attempting to foment a similar sentiment in the U.S.."

In an interview with WorldPost Managing Editor Farah Mohamed, Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed weighs in on President Obama's first visit to a U.S. mosque as commander in chief. It may be late in his term, Ahmed says, but for the president to visit a mosque when Donald Trump is calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country is clearly a significant statement of American values. Arturo Sarukhan joins two other diplomats in calling for "a pivot to North America" in the global strategies of Mexico, Canada and the U.S..

In the first of a new series, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees wonders what will happen to a planet populated by 11 billion people. In an interview, Alec Ross outlines his new book on the pros and cons of "The Industries of the Future." "The last trillion-dollar industry was built on computer code," Ross says. "The next will be built on genetic code." He also says that "the weaponization of code is the biggest development in warfare since the invention of the atomic bomb." Writing from Cape Town, Claire van den Heever reports that Facebook is not the only game in town in Africa, where the Chinese WeChat service is set to become the only app Africans need.

Writing from Oslo, Jan Egeland scores the dearth of international aid for refugees. Governments closing their borders to Syrian refugees often claim they help Syrians best "in their own region," he writes, but "it is a myth that they provide Syrian war victims with significant aid." In this week's "Forgotten Fact," we also look at the conflict in Syria and the aid that has unfortunately not made its way there. Daniel Marans describes how Greece is being squeezed between the burdens of the refugee influx and its economic downturn.

European parliamentarian Miguel Urban writes from Spain that, "the exponential increase of refugees and migrants is tearing at the seams of the European Union, which is neither as united nor as supportive as it has tried to appear." This photo series by Josef Schulz captures Europe's past of closed borders to suggest it could also be the future. UNESCO chief Irina Bokova writes that she's concerned about the lack of education for young refugees as their exile from home drags on. "Six years on," she writes, "it is time to think more long term, because a generation of young Syrians is in danger of being lost to despair, to violent extremism -- the foundations for peace in the future will erode if this reality is neglected." Writing from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Dana Ali laments that, five years after the overthrow of Gaddafi during the Arab Spring, "Libya is still in a state of war." World Reporter Nick Robins-Early explains how Libya is becoming the fallback location for the self-described Islamic State as it loses territory in Syria and Iraq. Writing from Paris, Bernard-Henri Lévy reviews a new film by François Margolin on "how jihadists are made."

World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati sees extreme inequality around the globe today as "a symptom of broken society." The U.N. Development Program's Mandeep Dhaliwal examines how the combination of environmental degradation and gender inequality can lead to the rise and spread of diseases, including the Zika virus. World Reporter Charlotte Alfred reviews how the lessons of the Ebola outbreak can help us cope with the Zika virus.

In a photo post from our series on everyday entrepreneurs, we profile resilient farmers in Timor-Leste who are rethinking the way food is produced in that country in the face of rising competition from cheap, factory-processed foods.

Of significant note, the Berggruen Institute announced this week that the director of the London School of Economics, Craig Calhoun, will take over as president of the Berggruen Institute in the summer of 2016. Announcing the appointment, Nicolas Berggruen, the founder and chairman of the Berggruen Institute, remarked, "Having headed the London School of Economics, Craig brings to us the world-class experience of leadership as well as scholarly achievement in the top ranks of global education. His aspiration over the years to establish 'an institutional location for practical reason in public affairs' is a perfect fit with the mission of the Berggruen Institute."

Fusion this week looks at the new ways Uber has developed to monitor bad drivers through their smartphones. Finally, in our Singularity series, we learn that the secret to memory capacity (in humans) may be synapse size.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute on Governance and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Senior Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost's editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost's Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul; Matt Sheehan in Beijing.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the "whole mind" way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute's 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council -- as well as regular contributors -- to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.

We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.

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White Nationalists Make Calls For Donald Trump In New Hampshire

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 20:04

A white nationalist group that made robocalls on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Iowa is now targeting New Hampshire voters ahead of next week's primary.

"We don't need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people," says one of the voices on the call. 

"I am a farmer and white nationalist," says another. "Support Donald Trump." 

Listen to the call here.

As CNN first reported Friday, the robocalls are bankrolled by William Johnson, a California attorney, through the American National Super PAC. Johnson is chairman of the American Freedom Party, a group designed to "represent the interests and issues of European-Americans," according to its website.

Johnson confirmed to The Huffington Post that he is responsible for the calls and said they went out to every landline number in New Hampshire.

"Donald Trump has a unique combination, politically, of populism with nationalistic sentiment," Johnson said. "He's forthright and doesn't back down."

The lawyer pointed to Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim positions as ones that drew his support. He also likes Trump's call for lower taxes for all workers, but wishes the real estate magnate was a stronger advocate for the environment and opposed U.S. intervention in foreign conflicts.

One of the men speaking on the robocall is Jared Taylor, who runs the "race-realism" publication American Renaissance. Taylor told HuffPost that he is a "white advocate," arguing that diversity is just a "source of tension." 

"What would I like to see recognized is that it is perfectly natural, normal and healthy for people to prefer the company of people like themselves," Taylor said.

He also praised Trump's xenophobic remarks, claiming that Muslim immigration to the U.S. has led to only "terrible results."

"Most white people act the way I do," he said. "They just don't dare say so."

Trump's campaign didn't immediately return a request for comment, but campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks had told CNN that the billionaire businessman has disavowed "all super PACs offering their support." 

Johnson said he has had zero contact with Trump's campaign.

While he said he has received just a handful of positive responses to the phone messages -- more people have reached out to say they won't be supporting Trump -- Johnson plans to keep robocalling ahead of future primaries. 

Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

Previously: This Neo-Nazi Response To Donald Trump's Anti-Muslim Plan Says It All

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Friday Talking Points -- Toss of a Coin

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 19:55

Appropriately, for the week which will also contain the Super Bowl, the first state to weigh in on the presidential election was decided (for Democrats) by a coin-toss. Or, to be accurate, seven of them. With tied caucuses in seven precincts, tossing a coin determined the winner between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Clinton won six coin-tosses, Sanders only one. Because of this, Clinton claimed a razor-edge victory in the whole state. To put it plainly, she got lucky. If the coin tosses had been a little less lopsided, Bernie would have had the opportunity to claim victory. Such is life, and such is the political process in Iowa.

Iowa officially kicked off (to continue our football metaphor) the 2016 primary season this week. New Hampshire is next in line, followed by Nevada and South Carolina (for Democrats), or South Carolina and Nevada (for Republicans). Then at the beginning of next month we move from retail politics to the wholesale frenzy of Super Tuesday. Game on, folks!

Of course, when the finals approach, some teams are left by the wayside. A record four candidates bowed out of the race this week, three Republicans (Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum) and Democrat Martin O'Malley. This whittles the total down to eleven candidates (enough for a scrimmage football team!), with two Democrats and nine Republicans left on the field -- all arguing about who is gets to be quarterback. Carly Fiorina just got demoted from the upcoming Republican debate, and so far New Hampshire looks pretty wide-open for the GOP. So grab chips and dip, then sit back and watch the show.

Democrats are down to a head-to-head contest, which was on full display last night in a debate that Debbie Wasserman Schultz never wanted to see happen (for some strange reason). Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made their respective cases fairly well, and the jostling between them for position was notable.

As always, there were several missed opportunities, both for the candidates and for the moderators. Not that Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow didn't do a good job, but we were left with several questions we wish had been asked. By candidate, here's what we would have asked.

For Hillary Clinton: You say you're for expanding Obamacare to cover 100 percent of the public, so how will you achieve this? How, specifically, can Obamacare be improved to become truly universal? You've said before, and I quote, "I am not going to wait and have us plunge back into a contentious national debate that has very little chance of succeeding," but how do you square this defeatism with your campaign slogan of "fighting every day" for average Americans? Are you only going to "fight every day" for things the Republicans in Congress agree to do? And finally, can you understand why some Democrats think you are too conservative when you repeatedly cite Henry Kissinger in a positive way? Most Democrats remember Henry Kissinger's time in office a little less fondly than you appear to.

For Bernie Sanders: You explained that you had to compromise on the veterans' reform bill you got through Congress. So why isn't it just as understandable when other Democrats -- Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama -- have to compromise on Progressive goals in order to get legislation actually passed? You say you'll have a litmus test for Supreme Court justice appointees on overturning Citizens United, but there is another way to do so. Would you support a constitutional amendment to not only overturn Citizens United but also to clearly state that corporations should not be treated as "people" in the political arena?

For both candidates: Should you fail in gaining the nomination, will you aggressively campaign for your opponent and do everything you can to convince your supporters to vote for him or her? The two of you quibble over some pretty arcane details on reforming Wall Street, but you both seem to agree that reform is necessary. So if your opponent's reform plan -- exactly as described -- came to you as a bill if you were president, would you sign it into law or veto it? Why?

Both candidates last night missed a few opportunities to paint a clear difference with the other. Bernie Sanders, in particular, missed a golden chance to hit Clinton when Rachel Maddow asked him a question which started off with the example of Barry Goldwater. Sanders, before he launched into the rest of his answer, could easily have prefaced it (he had already joked about being asked about something that happened in 1964) with something along the lines of: "I remember that Goldwater election -- I didn't vote for him and didn't campaign for him." He wouldn't have even had to use the term "Goldwater Girl," as the media would have happily dug it out for him. He had another chance to take the same shot when Clinton talked about being energized about politics when she was the age of "a lot of Sanders supporters." Sanders could also have called Clinton on the carpet about that Kissinger praise, as well. Clinton missed the chance to make what we think would be a truly excellent argument for her -- that she will be much better in a debate against a Republican. Clinton could have said something like: "Think this debate is tough? Who do you really want on stage debating Republicans, me or Bernie?" Democrats definitely have their eyes on the final prize, and Hillary should be making the case that she'll run a better general campaign than Bernie could manage.

Carping aside, we thought both Clinton and Sanders had a good night. The questioners were very savvy on Democratic issues and they allowed several free exchanges between the candidates to continue (always easier when there are only two candidates). We're never big fans of picking winners and losers of presidential debates, and last night was no different. Did Clinton or Sanders "win" the debate? Well, we'd have to call it a coin-toss, at best.

Not much else was in the news in the political world. Unemployment hit a new post-recession low of 4.9 percent. Even better, wages may be starting to rise as we approach what economists call "full employment." Too early to tell, but the signs are encouraging.

Out west, the world's first legal drive-through marijuana store will open soon: "A recreational marijuana drive-thru window is set to open in Gold Beach, Oregon on April 20, 2016. The window will be the first of its kind in the nation and will be located near the border of California." Location, location, location! Heh. Gotta love that grand opening date, too.

What else? Best headline of the week, from New Zealand: "Flying Pink Dildo Hits Politician In The Face During Presser" (said dildo was heaved with a cry of "that's for raping our sovereignty," in protest over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal). Truly, a headline for the ages.

Finally, Saturday Night Live is being hosted this week by Larry David, and it has already been noted that Bernie Sanders plans to travel to New York City on the same night. It's only a rumor so far, but it wouldn't surprise us in the least if Sanders shows up for a cameo with the comedian who has done the most brilliant impersonation of him to date. So there's that to look forward to.


Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders deserve at least Honorable Mentions this week, both for tying each other in Iowa and for very impressive debate performances.

But instead, we're going to hand the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to whomever came up with the most pointed question of the night. The questioner wasn't named, all Chuck Todd said about him or her was that the question "comes to us through New England Cable News."

The question was to Hillary Clinton, about whether she would release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs. This issue has cropped up in online discussions among Democrats, after someone recently pointed out that her speaking contract specifies that the only transcripts or recordings of her speeches will be made by her own employee -- meaning that transcripts to all of her speeches should be both available to Clinton and fully within her control. Here is Chuck Todd, reading the exact question (he paraphrases the middle of it):

"I am concerned with the abuses of Wall Street has taken with the American taxpayers money," and then she asks whether you would release the transcripts of your Goldman Sachs speeches, and then added, "Don't you think the voting public has a right to know what was said?"

We were impressed by the question's specificity, and by the fact that it was a better question than most asked last night. It was directed at Clinton, but we would have been just as impressed if similar questions from average voters had been asked of Sanders, as well. We firmly believe that involved voters at times can have much more specific questions than are ever asked by journalists or debate moderators. We also hope that the professional journalists will follow up on this question, especially after Clinton all but blew it off in her answer. She started off with: "I will look into it. I don't know the status, but I will certainly look into it." Three sentences later she said: "My view on this is look at my record." Again, we're hoping some enterprising journalist out there realizes that these speeches are indeed part of her record, and that the public can't "look at" these speeches until she releases those transcripts.

Again, there are plenty of unanswered questions for Bernie which could have been asked as well -- sadly, this example was the only question asked from an average citizen during the whole debate. For breaking through the gatekeepers of journalism and for asking a substantive and specific question that could reveal more of the Clinton record, we have to anonymously award the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week to whomever sent in that question. Political journalism ain't rocket science -- even average citizens can move the debate forward, at times.

[If anyone knows who the author of this question was, let us know in the comments so we can attach the correct name to the award.]


We're happy to say that no Democrat disappointed us enough to merit an award this week. If we've failed to notice some egregiously disappointing behavior, please let us know in the comments and maybe we'll agree and retroactively award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week in hindsight.


Volume 377 (2/5/16)

We are turning over the talking points this week to the two Democratic candidates for president. All of these were uttered during last night's debate, taken from the Washington Post transcript. Things like "(APPLAUSE)" were edited out, but that's the only editing that was done. In what we believe is a first for us, we're going to limit the talking points to six, so that both candidates get equal coverage. Also, these are presented in the order they appeared during the debate. These quotes are what we though were both candidates' best moments of the night.


   Hillary's main case

Because she had been directly challenged over the issue of her progressivism, Hillary Clinton repeated what will doubtlessly be a go-to campaign slogan for her from now on. The first time she used it, she laid out exactly what she thought it meant.

I am a Progressive who gets things done. And the root of that word, progressive, is progress. But I've heard Senator Sanders comments, and it's really caused me to wonder who's left in the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Under his definition, President Obama is not Progressive because he took donations from Wall Street; Vice President Biden is not Progressive because he supported Keystone; Senator Shaheen is not Progressive because she supports the trade pact. Even the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone would not fit this definition because he voted for DOMA.


   Bernie's main case

A little further on, Bernie Sanders made his main case, in response to whether Hillary Clinton was part of the "establishment" or not (Clinton tried to laugh this off by playing the gender card, without notable success).

I will absolutely admit that Secretary Clinton has the support of far more governors, mayors, members of the House. She has the entire establishment or almost the entire establishment behind her. That's a fact. I don't deny it. But I am pretty proud that we have over a million people who have contributed to our campaign averaging 27 bucks apiece. That we have had meetings where 25,000-30,000 people have come out. That our campaign is a campaign of the people, by the people, and for the people. So, Rachel, yes, Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment. I represent, I hope, ordinary Americans.


   Hillary: Say it to my face, Bernie!

Clinton had her best moment of the night (in our opinion) when she directly took on Bernie's innuendo over her ties to Wall Street. Sanders didn't take her up on her challenge, and responded in general terms about Wall Street corruption. But taking this shot across Bernie's bow was smart politics for Clinton.

I think it's fair to really ask what's behind that comment. You know, Senator Sanders has said he wants to run a positive campaign. I've tried to keep my disagreements over issues, as it should be. But time and time again, by innuendo, by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to -- you know, anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought. And I just absolutely reject that, Senator. And I really don't think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of you. And enough is enough. If you've got something to say, say it directly. But you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received.


   Sanders: Wall Street plays by different rules

Bernie had plenty of quotable moments when talking about how Wall Street operates by different rules than the rest of us. At one point, he directly stated "the business model of Wall Street is fraud." So there were a lot of quotes to choose from. Below is our favorite from the night.

Goldman Sachs was one of those companies whose illegal activity helped destroy our economy and ruin the lives of millions of Americans. But this is what a rigged economy and a corrupt campaign finance system and a broken criminal justice is about. These guys are so powerful that not one of the executives on Wall Street has been charged with anything after paying, in this case of Goldman Sachs, a $5 billion fine. Kid gets caught with marijuana, that kid has a police record. A Wall Street executive destroys the economy, $5 billion settlement with the government, no criminal record. That is what power is about. That is what corruption is about. And that is what has to change in the United States of America.


   Sanders: I never said that!

Sanders has had plenty of opportunities to take on what Clinton has been saying about him out on the campaign trail. He's been pushing back on the strawman notion (which Clinton has been using for weeks) that he would somehow join with Republicans to dismantle Obamacare before even having the debate on single-payer. But last night, Bernie pushed back on another falsehood: that he would normalize relations with Iran immediately.

Who said that [I] think we should normalize relations with Iran tomorrow? I never said that. I think we should move forward as quickly as we can. And you're right. They are a sponsor of terrorism around the world and we have to address that. But you know, a number of years ago, people were saying normal relationship with Cuba, what a bad and silly idea. They're Communists, they are our enemy. Well guess what? Change has come. So please don't suggest that I think we normalize relations with Tehran tomorrow. We don't. But I would like to see us move forward, and hopefully some day that will happen. And I would say if I might, Madam Secretary -- and you can correct me if I'm wrong. When you ran against Senator Obama you thought him naive because he thought it was a good idea to talk to our enemies. I think those are exactly the people you have to talk to and you have to negotiate with.


   Clinton: My agenda is bold

Clinton, in one of the final questions of the night, totally ignored the moderator's premise, which was to name the number one priority she'd have in office. Instead, Clinton turned the question on its head and trotted out her whole agenda. She was forceful, she sounded strong, and it wound up being one of her best moments of the night.

I'm for a lot of things. I don't want to just stop bad things from happening, I want to start good things happening. And I believe, if I'm so fortunate to get the nomination, I will begin to work immediately on putting together an agenda, beginning to talk with members of Congress and others about how we can push forward. I want to have half a billion more solar panels deployed, the first four years. I want to have enough clean energy to power every home the next four years. I want us to keep working on the Affordable Care Act, to get not only to 100 percent coverage, but bring down the costs of prescription drugs and out-of-pocket costs. I want to move forward on paid family leave, on early childhood education, I want us to do more for small businesses. Small businesses have to create most of the jobs, and we're not creating and growing small businesses. I think, if you have a smart agenda, you pick the committees that you know have to begin to work on these various pieces -- because that's the way Congress is set up. You go through different committees, and you really make a big push in the beginning. Immigration reform, economic revitalization with manufacturing, with infrastructure -- we put it out there, and we begin to work on an ambitious, big, bold agenda that will actually produce the results that I want to see for our country.


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Sexually Transmitted Zika Highlights Brazil's Rampant Inequality

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 19:50

On Friday, scientists detected Zika virus in both urine and saliva for the first time, classifying the virus in the bodily fluid samples as "active." That means the fluid samples are capable of transmitting Zika. This finding, coupled with recent reports of a sexually transmitted Zika case in Texas, indicates that sexual contact may become a significant mode of transmission for the disease.

The conclusion bodes poorly for the most impoverished women in Brazil and other Latin American countries, where access to comprehensive sex education and reproductive care -- including abortion -- is spotty to nonexistent.

While Brazilian researchers cautioned that it was too soon to say whether the virus can be transmitted via urine or saliva, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention affirmed Friday that sexual contact was a mode of Zika virus transmission.

"That fact that the virus was found with the capacity to cause infection is not proof that it can contaminate other people through those fluids," Myrna Bonaldo, one of the scientists at Brazil's Oswaldo Cruz Foundation who made the discovery, told Reuters

Dr. Paulo Gadelha, the president of Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, which is part of the country's health ministry, reminded Brazilians that Aedes aegypti mosquitos remain the primary vector for transmitting the virus, but that didn't stop him from warning pregnant women not to kiss strangers at the Carnival celebrations kicking off tonight, Reuters reported

"In light of the possibility of being in contact with someone who is infected, do not kiss, obviously," Gadelha said. "We cannot say today that there is no possibility of transmission."

New sex guidelines for pregnant women 

The discovery comes days after the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department reported the first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in the United States, after a patient contracted the virus from a sexual partner who had recently returned from Venezuela. On Thursday, Brazil reported the first Zika infection from a blood transfusion, and urged prospective donors to delay donations a full 30 days after recovering from a Zika infection.

After the Dallas report, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its Zika virus public health recommendation. Until the agency knows more about how the virus can be spread, it's advising pregnant women to avoid traveling to the 30 countries and territories with active Zika transmissions.

If a pregnant woman's male sexual partner lives in or travels to an area with active Zika transmissions, the agency recommends using condoms for vaginal, anal and oral sex during her pregnancy. 

Women trying to conceive should consult their health care providers before traveling to any areas with ongoing Zika transmissions and should adhere to the strictest standards of mosquito bite prevention.

"The potential hazard to the fetus is so substantial and so tragic that this looks like a very prudent recommendation until we learn more,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School, told The New York Times.

Poor women most vulnerable to sexually transmitted Zika

Still, the implications of sexually transmitted Zika are quite serious for a population that struggles with teen pregnancy and a dearth of sex education.

According to a 2014 government health report, teenage pregnancy rates are driven by high figures in Brazil's northeast region -- the same area that's been hardest hit by Zika virus. Of those teenage mothers, about 1 percent -- or 30,000 girls -- are between the ages of 10 and 15.

Sex education in Brazil is disjointed and controversial, according to Al Jazeera America, unsurprising in a heavily Catholic country with strict abortion law. Under such circumstances, women with fewer resources for disease prevention, care and treatment will be disproportionally affected by Zika (and, should the link between the two be proven, microcephaly), according to Brandon Brown, an assistant professor at University of California, Riverside's Center for Healthy Communities.

"If the United States is anything like the rest of the world, what we see is that high-income couples delay childbirth or adoption until an older age, compared to their lower-income counterparts," Brown said.

"This results in fewer children for high-income women. Low-income women may have fewer resources to prevent pregnancy compared to women with a higher income," he said. "Therefore, even for those intending to follow the mandate to not get pregnant, they may be unable to do so due to lack of resources."

That's true for Hilda Venancio Silva, whose three-month-old son was born with microcephaly. Silva, 38, had to seek out information about birth control on her own. “To be honest, I never had any education about it,” Venancio told Al Jazeera America.

"It is true that many infectious diseases do have a higher impact on low-income individuals and in low-income settings," Brown said. "HIV and TB are good examples of this. Not only does a high disease burden fall on low-income individuals, but it also historically falls on lower-income countries."

Read more Zika virus coverage: 

Also on HuffPost:

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Pentagon Continues To Block Release Of Bush-Era Torture Photos

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 19:41

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon on Friday begrudgingly released 198 photos showing abuse of detainees held by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan during the George W. Bush administration. 

The afternoon dump of photos, in response to a 2004 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, is only a fraction of the 2,000 torture-related photographs the ACLU has sought. Nonetheless, it's the first time the military has agreed to release any of the contested images.

“The disclosure of these photos is long overdue, but more important than the disclosure is the fact that hundreds of photographs are still being withheld,” Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director, said in a news release. “The still-secret pictures are the best evidence of the serious abuses that took place in military detention centers. The government’s selective disclosure risks misleading the public about the true extent of the abuse.”

The images released Friday are mostly closeup pictures of cuts, scars, or bruises on unidentified men. Some show prisoners handcuffed. In most images, the Pentagon redacted identifying features, such as prisoners’ eyes, but also blacked out parts of their bodies that do not appear to be identifying. In one image, one of a prisoner's eyes is visible, but his nose is blacked out. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a question asking for an explanation for the apparently excessive redactions.

Some of the photos released Friday by the Pentagon:

There are no descriptions accompanying the images, and some are too zoomed-in to show whether the prisoner in the photograph is conscious. The Pentagon didn't immediately respond to an inquiry about circumstances that prompted the military to take the photographs.

The images still withheld by the Pentagon are said to be more damning to the military than the batch that was released on Friday. It is believed some show “soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded or handcuffed detainees,” as then-U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan -- now a Supreme Court justice -- said in a brief filed with the high court in 2009. Another image shows a soldier holding a broom as if “sticking its end into the rectum of a restrained detainee,” Kagan said at the time, reading from a Pentagon report on the photographs.

The ACLU lawsuit has had a tortuous history through the courts. It began as a FOIA request in 2003, seeking documents and photographs relating to the illegal detention, abuse and torture by the U.S. of prisoners overseas. While the request was still fresh, the Abu Ghraib torture revelations in Iraq gave new impetus to what would become a protracted legal fight, prompting the ACLU to seek specific photographs showing torture or other abuse by the U.S. military against prisoners.

After much delay by the government, the ACLU received upwards of 6,000 documents detailing the extent of some of the abuses -- enough for the legal advocacy group to create what it called a “torture database.”

But the government still refused to turn over the photos. After an extended back-and-forth in the courts -- a battle so exhausting even Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court had to get involved -- it finally took a Manhattan federal judge in 2015 to order the Department of Defense to “disclose each and all the photographs” related to the ACLU’s FOIA request.

The judge reasoned that the government’s justifications for keeping the pictures secret were “deficient” and “not sufficiently individualized” so as to explain why their release would pose a danger to national security. (Another judge rejected a similar argument from the Obama administration in another case over the release of force-feeding videos at Guantanamo Bay.)

The Pentagon has long maintained that the release of the photos would put Americans at risk and that abuse shown in the pictures was committed by a small number of low-level soldiers who were punished.

But the ACLU says the photos suggest an institutional problem. “What the photos that the government has suppressed would show is that abuse was so widespread that it could only have resulted from policy or a climate calculated to foster abuse,” Alex Abdo, an ACLU staff attorney said in the same statement Friday. “That is why the government must release all of the photos and why today's selective disclosure is so troubling.”

The ACLU said it will continue to battle the Defense Department in federal court for the pictures that remain secret. It will continue to press the Obama administration to explain why, individually, each photo must be kept from the public.

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Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Wall Street, and America 2.0

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 19:21
The stunning ascent of Bernie Sanders portends far more than a hard-fought Democratic primary. Its greater implication, whether Sanders wins or loses, is that America's crony capitalism will no longer go unchallenged. Thus Hillary Clinton and her husband, along with many others, are increasingly trapped by the wealth, credentials, and insider status they have pursued so fervently - because they derive from a corruption whose nature and consequences can no longer be concealed. America's financial elites are now so corrupt, arrogant, and predatory that political leaders beholden to them can't even pretend to deliver economic or political security, much less fairness or progress.

And now, finally, Americans are running out of patience. In addition to Bernie Sanders, there's Elizabeth Warren, Zephyr Teachout, and even movies - The Big Short has (deservedly) grossed $100 million. Everything suggests that American politics is now truly, fundamentally, up for grabs - a hugely exciting but also terrifying prospect. In America, the Great Depression yielded Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal; but in Europe, it created Hitler and Mussolini. America's reaction against its corruption and decline could show us at our best - or our worst.

Indeed, this is the Democratic establishment's rejoinder to Bernie Sanders: he's a wonderful dreamer, but impractical - he can't get elected, so we'd get Trump or Cruz, and furthermore even if Bernie was elected, he couldn't get anything done. Look at Dodd-Frank and Obamacare, they say - those laws barely passed. No way could Bernie break up the banks. Only a pragmatic, moderate insider can get anywhere.

Actually the truth is exactly the opposite. American insider politics is now so corrupt that nobody within it can get anything done. But by stepping outside of the rules, you could do a great deal. Let's take a concrete example - the banks.

Start with Hillary Clinton. The sound bite is that Goldman Sachs paid her $675K for three speeches. The full reality is far worse. She, her husband, and their advisers have history with the banks going back decades. Bill Clinton made Robert Rubin, former president of Goldman Sachs, his Treasury secretary, then appointed Larry Summers and Laura Tyson to succeed him, and re-appointed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Fed. Together, they let the banks run amok; in fact, they helped them. They repealed Glass-Steagall, banned the regulation of derivatives, refused to use the Fed's authority to regulate the mortgage industry, and did nothing as massive securities fraud permeated the Internet bubble. Then Rubin became vice-chairman of Citigroup, while Tyson joined the board of Morgan Stanley. Bill Clinton, Rubin, Summers, Tyson, and Greenspan all share major responsibility for the 2008 global financial crisis, and none of them have been remotely honest about it.

Since leaving office, both Bill and Hillary have made millions of dollars giving speeches to banks while being remarkably quiet about prosecution of financial crime, not to mention the Obama administration's appalling record since the crisis - zero prosecutions, bankers in senior regulatory positions, inviting bank CEOs to state dinners dozens of times, et cetera. Now Hillary says she'll rely on Bill for economic policy. Bad idea. The financial sector became a pervasively criminal and economically destabilizing industry largely through Clinton policies, and now Hillary takes their money. When pressed, Democratic insiders concede all this, but then say, well, OK, the financial sector is just too powerful to rein in, but think of what Hillary could do in, say, education.

Let us therefore take a brief tour of the Education Management Corporation (EDMC), one of the most repulsively predatory companies in America. EDMC specialized in exploiting poor people seeking to better themselves educationally. It used fraudulent marketing, luring students into paying high tuition - by taking out student loans signed over to EDMC. EDMC kept all the money, but provided abysmal schooling with high dropout rates. EDMC made huge profits while poor students wasted time, obtained no skills, and dropped out with crushing debts.

EDMC raked in $11 billion this way. Assuming, say, $11,000 per student, EDMC screwed one million poor Americans. Eventually the Justice Department sued, but as usual the settlement was a wrist-slap with no criminal prosecutions, no admission of guilt, and no financial relief to victims.

But why am I telling you all this?

Well, now. Who devised EDMC's strategy, aided by relaxed Federal regulation? Who was EDMC's largest shareholder, buying 41% of the company in 2006?

Goldman Sachs.

Now, Hillary, when you and Bill have your little cocktail parties for the Clinton Foundation in Goldman Sachs offices, when you give your speeches to Goldman Sachs executives, when you chat them up for donations, when you meet them at White House state dinners, just how frequently do you bring this up?

OK, Hillary ain't so great. But could Bernie do any better? Well, he could appoint an Attorney General and a head of the DOJ Criminal Division who haven't spent their careers defending corporate criminals, and then invite the Justice Department to put lots of bankers in jail. (There is overwhelming evidence to justify doing so; for details, read this, or chapter 6 of this.) Bernie could also appoint an Antitrust Division head who would actually investigate the cozy, cartel-like arrangements that pervade finance, and bring major cases against the banks. He could appoint a Federal Reserve chair who would require banks to divest assets and operate safely, plus regulating bankers' compensation so that if you caused a disaster, you couldn't profit from it. All this can be done without a single new law, and both Bill Clinton and Obama could have done them too.

Now, can Bernie Sanders get elected? And are we willing to take the risk that if he loses, we'd get an insane Neanderthal like Trump or Cruz running the country? Honestly, I'm not sure. For one thing, Bernie had better stop calling himself a socialist. But I'm damned sure that if he was elected, he'd do a lot more than Hillary Clinton would. And I think that the American people have figured this out.

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This Town Is Encouraging Teachers To Carry Guns. Here's Their Reasoning.

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 19:17

A small rural town in Oklahoma has decided that the best way to prevent a hypothetical mass shooting at their schools is to arm teachers with guns

So far, approximately 5 percent of all teachers at Okay Public Schools are packing heat, according to Superintendent Charles McMahan. 

At the beginning of the current academic year, the Okay Public School Board of Education instituted a policy laying out how teachers with a concealed carry permit could obtain permission to bring a gun to school. 

On Monday, the policy drew a little more public attention. The old "Gun Free School Zone" signs were replaced with new signs warning that armed staff members "may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students," the Muskogee Phoenix reports.

"No specific incident caused us to pass this policy," McMahan said. "But with everything that's going on in the world, we've heard that you may possibly see more attacks from radical groups looking for children."

The town of Okay has a population of roughly 650 people and only one local police officer. Law enforcement officers from nearby Wagoner take about 10 minutes to respond to any given situation, McMahan said.

"If a shooting situation were to happen, which we pray it never will, seconds matter," he said.

Along with having a concealed carry permit, teachers participating in the program must have a certificate from Oklahoma's Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, receive a psychiatric evaluation and take a shooting course three times a year. 

Participating teachers must have their weapon on them or secured in a lockbox, according to the policy. The guns must be .45 caliber or less. And McMahan said they must be "name brand" guns.

But what if an angry or upset student gets hold of a teacher's firearm? What if a gun is lost on school grounds? What if a teacher accidentally discharges the weapon?

"The risks are outweighed by the threats that are out there," McMahan said. "The chances of a student getting ahold of one of the guns would be very, very slim."

What if police mistake an armed teacher for an armed suspect during an actual shooting?

"Not really a concern to us, as we have identifiable gear," he said. According to the policy, armed teachers wear an identifying badge, hat or jacket. "We do realize this could put us at risk, but that is the chance we take to keep our students safe."

Perhaps the most important question is simply: Do armed civilians actually stop mass shooters? McMahan believes they do. The evidence suggests only when they're former military or law enforcement themselves.

As The New York Times' Andrew Rosenthal points out, multiple "good guys" with guns can make an already chaotic scene more dangerous:

About the only thing more terrifying than a lone gunman firing into a classroom or a crowded movie theater is a half a dozen more gunmen leaping around firing their pistols at the killer, which is to say really at each other and every bystander. It's a police officer's nightmare.

Around 20 states have laws allowing adults to carry licensed guns into schools, according to The Washington Post. McMahan said he was inspired to post the warning signs after a suggestion from law enforcement and because a north Texas school implemented the same policy in 2014.

The superintendent said he hasn't received any negative feedback regarding the policy, though he clarified that he was "not counting Facebook comments."

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A Crazy Way to Fill the Most Important Job on Earth

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 19:10
Rubio shakes up Republican race by surging into third! Hillary holds off Bernie to remain front-runner! Trump humbled by second-place showing!

These are the breathless headlines out of Iowa. And they're crazy. I don't mean they're wrong . . . just crazy.

Iowa and New Hampshire have hosted the opening rounds of the Presidential nominating process for decades, sparking a quadrennial debate (at least among political scientists and other election geeks) about the wisdom of giving two demographically unrepresentative states such disproportionate influence.

Why should Iowa farmers have more power over the Republic than, say, hipsters in Brooklyn, retirees in Arizona, auto plant workers in Detroit, or coal miners in West Virginia? It's a fair question, and it leads to some obvious follow-up questions. Maybe the states should take turns going first? Or maybe voting should kick off in states that are more diverse, or more urban, or more . . . whatever.

Putting others states at the front of the line -- New Jersey and Florida, come on down! -- would certainly make things different. Instead of talking about ethanol and trudging through the snow to inspect hog farms, the candidates might be talking about mass transit and offering handshakes to startled sun-bathers. But would things be better? I'm not convinced.

Because the core of the problem is not that the wrong state goes first; the core of the problem is that any state goes first.

Here's why . . .

Every election above the level of student class representative is, in a sense, a composite of multiple smaller elections. Presidential candidates win and lose different states. Gubernatorial candidates win and lose different counties. Mayoral candidates win and lose different precincts. But usually everything occurs simultaneously, as part of a single event, so it's easy to put each small subset of results in the right perspective and see clearly how the little pieces shape (or don't shape) the overall outcome.

Presidential nominations, however, are the exception. Instead of a simultaneous vote, the primaries and caucuses are conducted serially. And that throws perspective out the window.

Humans are natural story-tellers, wired-up to impose a narrative structure on even random events. And when it comes to political narratives, the ceaseless demands of the 24-hour cable and Internet news cycle pour fuel on our instinctive story-telling fire. No wonder reporters, pundits, and voters overstate (or invent) the meaning of each sequential data point. We can't help ourselves.

If this were just a matter of talking heads filling airtime with after-the-fact analysis, then it wouldn't matter much. Wednesday's punditry doesn't change Tuesday's votes.

But in a serial contest, where the next round of voting is still ahead, a phony narrative - candidate X is surging, candidate Y is stumbling, etc. - can bootstrap its way into self-fulfillment.

And that's a big problem.

If the Iowa caucus were a standalone election then it would matter a great deal whether Hillary Clinton edged Bernie Sanders or vice versa. It would matter a great deal whether Trump finished first or Cruz finished first. Victory and defeat would have their traditional meanings, and vote tallies would have objective consequences. But it's not a standalone election. It is one tiny piece of a national decision.

So even though, as a big Hillary fan, I breathed a sigh of relief when she won Iowa (because I knew the other outcome would alter coverage of the race to Hillary's detriment), I am forced to admit: viewed sensibly, the difference between finishing 0.3% ahead or 0.3% behind is literally meaningless.

Many things in politics are a blend of reality and perception. But when it comes to the Presidential nominating process, the balance is completely out of whack. The significance of these early contests is nearly all perception. All artificial. All over-hyped narrative.

Is there a better way? Yes. A national primary would be a lot more rational. Or at least aggregated regional primaries. The key is making sure that elections are big enough that the results actually matter for themselves, without being propped by a phony storyline.

There would be downsides -- a higher barrier to entry for less-well-known candidates, to name one. Plus you'd need some sort of automatic run-off provision to prevent fringe candidates from sliding into the nomination in a crowded field. And we'd miss the personal contact that the current system affords (at least to voters in the early states.)

But this still strikes me as a lot better than our system of serial balloting, in which media spin counts for more than votes. It's a crazy way to fill the most important job on Earth.

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What's the Difference Between Capitalism and Democratic Socialism?

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 19:06
As I listen to the campaign speeches of the Republican and Democratic presidential front-runners - each outlining their views for the future of America - it seems to me that it boils down to this central question:

What kind of country do we want: an America in which it's "Every person for him/herself" ... or an America in which "We're all in this together"?

Do we vote for the ethos of the individual: the independent citizen, the solo performer, the Lone Ranger who goes it alone?

Or do we vote for the ethos of community: the interdependent gathering of folks who know that it takes a village to raise a barn, to raise kids, and to lift a nation to greatness?

The Republicans have complete faith in the ability of individuals to take care of themselves: citizens can save for their own retirement, pay for their own health care, get a good education, and fail or succeed at business all on their own. The GOP believes that poor people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Their motto is: "I am not my brother's keeper."

The Democrats have faith in community. They believe that "no man is an island" and that individuals' actions almost always affect others. They understand that human beings are social creatures - like dolphins, lions, elephants, geese, penguins, monkeys, dogs, wolves, and myriad others. Humans thrive when we live in healthy interdependence with one another. We are built for community, collaboration, and cooperation.

Regarding the poor, the Dems agree with Justice Thurgood Marshall: "None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody - a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony, or a few nuns - bent down and helped us pick up our boots." The Democrats' motto is: "We're all in this together."

I am reminded of an allegory that illustrates the difference between the Republican Capitalist vision and the Democratic Socialist vision for America:

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like."

The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors for the holy man to peer inside. In the middle of the room was a large round table, in the middle of which was a huge pot of stew that smelled delicious. But the people sitting around the table were emaciated, pale, and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They each had spoons with very long handles splinted to their arms, but found it impossible to reach into the pot of stew and eat a spoonful because they couldn't get the long-handled spoons to their own mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. The Lord said, "You have seen Hell."

The Lord then took the holy man to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one, with a large round table, in the middle of which was a huge pot of stew that smelled delicious. The people's arms were splinted with the same long-handled spoons as the other room, but in this room, the people were well-nourished and healthy. They were all laughing and talking, as they took turns scooping up big spoonfuls of stew and then feeding each other.

The holy man turned to the Lord and said, "Oh, now I see the difference."

"Yes," said the Lord, "Here in Heaven, people have learned to feed each other ... while in Hell, people think only of themselves."

BJ Gallagher is a sociologist and author of 30 books, including
"If God Is Your Co-Pilot, Switch Seats" (Hampton Roads).

(Photo: Peacock Productions)

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An Unsolicited Addendum to the Legitimate "ALL CAPS Explosion of Feelings" About Hillary Clinton

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 19:03
A recent article from a writer for Pajiba called An All Caps Explosion of Feelings Regarding the Liberal Backlash Against Hillary Clinton has gotten quite a lot of coverage online and on social media, allegedly "breaking the internet" according to some and certainly creating a lot of discussion. The article is well-articulated (especially considering it was written in an intentionally inflammatory manner) and expresses some obviously widely-shared frustrations over gender inequalities. It also raises some really significant points about how these inequalities translate into the media and politics--points that are usually not evident to men, in particular. Now, don't get me wrong, such sentiments are certainly appreciated and warranted given the persistent gender disparities that exist at all levels of society, which no doubt have influenced Hillary Clinton's political experiences significantly.

That being said, let's not pretend as if Clinton does not also have her own unique and incredibly powerful sets of privileges in this campaign--i.e. virtually unlimited campaign financing, a very influential and very large network of political allies, and lest we forget, the support of the all-powerful DNC, who has so far not proven a big fan of Bernie Sanders.

Let's also not pretend that Sanders has somehow been shown red-carpet treatment by either the media or the public for his political views, either because he is a man or otherwise. Sanders has consistently been a political outsider, often mocked or dismissed for his ideas within the US political establishment.

And finally, let's be honest about differences in platform consistency between both candidates. Varying public impressions of Sanders and Clinton, even in regards to similarly-held positions on specific policies, might have as much to do with gender and as with candidates' policy stances over time. Sanders has been preaching the same politics for decades, while Clinton seems to be riding the popular wave of leftist ideas. This can be either dismissed or appreciated--as the ALL CAPS article states, this could be seen an example of Clinton growing as a politician--but it cannot be ignored.

These subtleties might be obscured by Sanders' recent popularity among young voters (of whose votes Sanders won 84% in the Iowa caucus) a demography that is by-and-large the most represented on social media. Based on a standard daily Twitter or Facebook newsfeed, one could easily get the impression that not only is Bernie Sanders destined for the presidency, but that he is also some sort of renegade political folk hero of magnificent proportions. This demographically-skewed sample, however, reflects far more about the people using Facebook (and their biases and prejudices) than it does the political reality.

It would be overly-simplistic to imply that, if only Clinton were not a woman, her politics could or would be different, more radical, more consistent, more exciting to young people or whatever else. It seems naive to say that Hillary has to "play the game" just because of her gender--it is part of the greater political equation, no doubt, but Clinton's politics and ideas, like Clinton herself, are far more complex than that. Not that such a reductive reading was either the message or point of the ALL CAPS Pajiba piece, which as previously stated, definitely conveyed a very understandable sentiment. Just that such a reductive reading could belie other significant political difference between the two candidates.

It is a shame that we have not yet had a female president. It is wrong that, even in 2016, Hillary Clinton (or any woman, for that matter) is still treated unjustly by a system and society that is pathologically patriarchal. This article is not meant to discount the role of gender in politics or to somehow claim that there is an even playing-field between Sanders and Clinton. This article is only trying to make the point that there are many additional dimensions to power and privilege that define this field--the field of what is politically possible--other than just gender.

And with the Republican field over yonder looking as heinously demagogic and removed-from-reality as ever, this is too important of an election to act otherwise.

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Domestic Violence Goes Unmentioned At NFL's First Women's Summit

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 18:56

SAN FRANCISCO -- The NFL's problem with domestic violence was ignored at the league's inaugural Women's Summit, a two-day event this week ahead of Super Bowl 50. 

The summit, which featured Serena Williams, Billie Jean King, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other influential women in the sports world, was a clear attempt by the league at bolstering its outreach to women. The event focused on empowerment and inclusion, using the hashtag #InTheHuddle to symbolize the league's commitment to embracing female athletes and fans. 

"Our initiative here today is to say, 'How do we get more girls to play sports?'" NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the start of the summit on Thursday. "How do we get them to develop the confidence that we believe is going to make them successful in life, whether they are professional athletes or not?" 

By some measures, the league's relationship with women has improved in recent years. Female viewership is growing -- one report found a 26 percent increase in women watching football from 2009 to 2013. The league has made historic hires over the past year, including two female coaches and one referee. And on Thursday, Goodell announced that the league will implement a "Rooney Rule" requiring at least one woman to be interviewed for every executive vacancy.

However, the shadows of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and other players accused of assaulting their wives and girlfriends -- and the memory of the league's various disappointing responses to those cases  -- still loom large over the sport. The league updated its domestic violence policy in 2014 after video emerged of Rice, then a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, assaulting his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an elevator. But advocates say the NFL is still falling short in punishing players who abuse women. 

Over roughly eight hours of panels, speeches and presentations Thursday and Friday, not one speaker mentioned the league's handling of players charged with committing domestic violence. Some speakers, such as King, did press the NFL to do better in hiring women on and off the field. But by and large, the panelists kept their message focused on why sports are important to them and how to boost girls' participation in athletics.

Other controversies involving the league, including the concussion crisis and cheerleaders' fight for fair wages, also went unacknowledged.

Goodell did talk about domestic violence in an interview Friday with ABC's Robin Roberts, where he argued that the NFL is working to address these issues. 

“When our policies haven't met the types of standards that we think should be upheld, we acknowledge that, [and] in the domestic violence and sexual assault area, we changed that," he said. "In this past 12-month cycle, we had the lowest amount of arrests in the history of the NFL."

In an email Friday, NFL spokeswoman Joanna Hunter told The Huffington Post that the Women's Summit and the issue of domestic violence "are really two entirely different topics."

"Domestic violence is a serious and complex issue across this country," Hunter said, "and the NFL is taking a comprehensive approach in addressing it, one that includes education and prevention efforts for all NFL employees as well as enhanced [investigations] and tough discipline for anyone who violates our conduct standards. We know we have even more work to do in this area, and we are doing it."

"The Women’s Summit is separate and apart from those efforts," she continued. "The summit focused on the benefits of organized sports participation and the positive character and values learned on the field of play."

This story has been updated to include comments from the NFL.


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Trump's Momentum Could Be Petering Out As New Hampshire Vote Approaches

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 18:55

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Republicans who aren’t in Donald Trump’s camp and independent polltakers and experts here are increasingly convinced that the fear-peddling billionaire is losing momentum and could even lose on Election Day.

“I’ve been convinced since day one that he would not win in the end,” said Andy Smith, the respected dean of New Hampshire polling and a teacher at the University of New Hampshire.

Key insiders for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) of course say the same thing -- but they are saying it with much more conviction than they did a few weeks ago.

“We have to chance to catch him,” insisted former Sen. John Sununu, who is a key figure in Kasich's campaign. “People are looking for ways NOT to vote for Trump.”

More than a third of voters have said they definitely would NOT vote for Trump, a very high number at the same time that there is a huge undecided vote, Smith told The Huffington Post in an interview. “There is a ceiling on his support, not a floor.”

Though Smith's latest poll puts Trump at 28 percent and his nearest competitor -- Rubio -- at 15, Smith thinks that there is time for Trump to fall further, and perhaps for Rubio, Kasich or Cruz to catch up to him.

“Right now it is a slow leak in the tire, but the tire could also explode,” said Smith. “Don’t forget that in 2004, Howard Dean fell 14 points in one day after his meltdown in Iowa.”

On television, Rubio ads are in particularly heavy rotation on local stations, aimed at women and low-information voters who are slow to make up their mind and are still available.

At the same time, Cruz is being hit on TV with a barrage of negative “independent” PAC ads aimed at shaking loose his support.

GOP types continue to disparage Trump’s ground game here, especially after watching him underperform by 6 points or more in Iowa.

For example, other candidates harvest large amounts of data before and at local events, either in person or via apps such as Eventbrite. Trump’s team gets a minimum of information and then does little to follow up on it, operatives say.

“The big rally is not how you do it here,” said David Carney, a longtime GOP operative and campaign manager in New Hampshire.

Saturday night’s ABC-run and RNC-sponsored debate at St. Anselm College will likely be Trump's last test before New Hampshire voters head to the polls.

In this case, he will not only be fending off the substantive attacks of others. He will also be trying to fight off the still-under-the-radar but real sense that he could become a two-time loser.

Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

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Bernie Sanders's Ill-Defined Foreign Policy

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 18:44
Bernie Sanders's foreign policy is unclear, lacks clarity, and is ill-defined.

He virtually tied Hillary Clinton in Iowa on a platform of left-wing economic populism that derails Wall Street and obscene inequality. However, the extent of Sanders's heavily concentrated focus on social, economic and political justice, has resulted in a profound neglect in effectively clarifying and articulating his foreign policy.

Sanders's lack of foreign policy clarity doesn't appear to affect his polling, however, with a recent NBC poll showing that only 16% of Democratic voters call foreign policy and terrorism the most important issue. Conversely, whereas the top issue among Republicans is counter-terrorism, the top issue for Democrats are the economy and healthcare.

While an unclear foreign policy may not detrimentally affect Sanders for now, if he does become the nominee, which isn't highly likely, he can't afford to be so vague.

It is vagueness heavily rested on his opposition to the Iraq war that Hillary Clinton has picked apart recently: "Senator Sanders doesn't talk very much about foreign policy. And when he does, it raises concerns because sometimes it can sound like he hasn't really thought it through."

This suspicion of Sanders's foreign policy credentials extend to a public letter released by 10 pro-Clinton foreign policy experts that states, "We are concerned that Senator Sanders has not thought through these crucial national security issues that can have profound consequences for our security."

On ambiguity, it's not entirely certain, for example, what direction Sanders would want to take military spending as president, due to his seeming contradictions.

His campaign website loosely states, 'Our defence budget must represent our national security interests and the needs of our military, not the reelection of members of Congress or the profits of defence contractors', and ends with an endorsement of President Eisenhower's fears of military industrial complex largesse.

At the same time, Sanders seemingly contradicts himself by happening to defend the immensely expensive f-35 stealth fighter program.

While offering phrases such as 'moving away from unilateralism' towards multilateralism may offer some helpful indication, it spells very little indication of where Sanders would set military spending, what he would do with troop numbers in Germany, for example, or even the fate under a Sanders presidency of the estimated 800 bases around the world.

Looking at the War and Peace section on Bernie Sanders's website, when you remove his vote against Iraqi intervention in 2003, one finds little beyond support for the Iran deal and supporting a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Indeed, Senator McCaskill correctly notes, "Most Americans are going to want a foreign policy that has more depth to it than, 'I was right about the Iraq war vote' and that seems to be the only thing that Bernie has shown a mastery of."

That doesn't diminish the weighting of the Iraq war vote even to this day, nor the importance of fighting ISIS in Iraq. It's that there are clearly other non-Iraq associated big issues and hard choices, hard choices that Clinton confronted and can drawn upon during her time as Secretary of State.

Beyond ambiguity, Sanders has proven his foreign policy illiteracy by defending a strategy against ISIS that is detached from the reality of Middle East geopolitics. He has called on Iran and Saudi Arabia to work together and build a coalition to defeat ISIS, omitting to acknowledge that contempt and animosity towards both countries couldn't be any higher.

Michael Pregent, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, notes that, "Sanders does not understand that Sunni nations are as concerned - if not more - about Iranian hegemonic goals as they are with the threat of ISIS."

The Sanders doctrine would be easier to define by judging which foreign policy experts Sanders has called upon for advice. Unlike Clinton, Sanders has called on the advice of very few experts and that adds to questions about what sort of foreign policy he would have. Phyllis Bennis, director of the Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies points out, "I have no idea who Bernie is listening to on security and foreign affairs."

Sanders is ambiguous because as a populist, he wants to challenge the status quo, but he largely embraces the Obama administration's decisions. He can't afford to embrace Obama's foreign policy, however, as Obama's foreign policy decisions are associated with Hillary Clinton. Herein lies the issue with Sanders, as Ali Gharib of The Nation precisely highlights that Sanders "is trying to position himself as challenging the status quo while in fact upholding it."

Bernie Sanders has built a campaign primarily on a single-minded focus of economic inequality. It may be able to sustain him for now, but if Sanders does become the eventual Democratic nominee, he won't attract independent voters with evident foreign policy ambiguity.

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Obama's First US Mosque Visit: Better Late Than Never?

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 18:43
With all the controversy surrounding whether he himself is actually a Muslim, US President Barack Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a 47-year-old mosque with thousands of attendees, for the first time ever during his presidency.

He stated that the purpose of his visit was to speak out against "inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans" from Republican presidential candidates. Whether you approve of him or not, few can deny Obama's oratory skills, and they were on full display during his soaring speech about American Muslims and how they are essential to the fabric of America.

"Let me say as clearly as I can as president of the United States: you fit right here," Obama
declared to the crowd's applause. "You're right where you belong. You're part of America too. You're not Muslim or American. You're Muslim and American."

Although Obama's rhetoric in support of Muslim-Americans is nothing new, his choice of location very much was. The president has been consistent in condemning acts of violence against Muslims in America, and has been a vocal critic of the Republican presidential candidates' hate speech, but this week marked Obama's first official mosque visit in the US.

But even before Obama entered the mosque, I already had my mind made up: Too little, too

In my opinion, there are very few positives one can make about the Bush Administration, but
despite how much instability their foreign policy caused in the Middle East, George W. Bush
was quick about holding a press conference at Washington's Islamic Center days after
September 11th. What took Obama so long?

Yes, certainly Obama has not had an easy path to a mosque. Over 29% of Americans believe
Obama is a Muslim, and the numbers amongst Republicans who think this is true is higher at
approximately 46%.

While it is sad that today in America being called a Muslim is considered an insult is sad in itself,
but that is the current reality, as unfortunate as that is. However, as soon as Obama began speaking my mind began to change itself. This speech emphasized, amongst other things, how proud Americans should be proud of their Muslim brothers and sisters.

It many ways, it made me think that perhaps Obama's speech could not have been better timed. Anti-Muslim rhetoric is at an all time high, much greater than it was during his first term, and Republican candidates are running on anti-Muslim sentiment as a major political platform for their base.

Which makes Obama's speech all the more significant and relevant. The man in charge of America, its highest position, US Ambassador to the world spent 45 minutes in a mosque speaking about the freedom to worship, love, equality and the need for one nation to respect all values.

At the end of the day, the significance and beauty of this speech cannot be overstated.

Of course, critics of the president were quick to comment. Republican Candidate for president, Marco Rubio accused Obama of playing divisive politics.

"I'm tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president's done," Rubio said. "Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today - he gave a speech at a mosque...basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there's going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam."

As always with politics, balance is key in the game. Not even 48 hours after his historic mosque visit, Obama addressed the nation at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, staying with the theme of overcoming fear through faith, while reaffirming his Christian identity.

"Fear can lead us to lash out against those who are different or lead us to try to get some sinister 'other' under control," Obama said. "Alternatively, fear can lead us to succumb to despair or paralysis or cynicism. Fear can feed our most selfish impulses and erode the bonds of community. "Faith is the great cure for fear."

The need to protect America as a place to practice your faith in peace and freedom, has perhaps never been greater.

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What Did Hillary Clinton Say Behind Closed Doors?

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 18:41
Last month as Hillary Clinton was leaving a town meeting in Manchester, Lee Fang of the Intercept asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid, and very private speeches to Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street powerhouse historically deep in Washington, D.C., influence-peddling. Mrs. Clinton just laughed.

It is probably a good bet that her laugh was masking a deep worry, shared by her husband, that disclosing what she confidentially told big-business conferences and conventions around the country, which paid her about $5,000 a minute, would emerge as a dominant issue in the mainstream media.

Reporters have taken notice of her $250,000-and-up speeches before trade associations from which they have been excluded. But journalists have not demanded that she tell the voters what she told the executives from Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investments, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Golden Tree Asset Management, the National Automotive Dealers Association, Deutsche Bank, the National Association of Realtors, eBay, Cisco, among other plutocracy paymasters seeking to expand their political influence.

Until that is, Thursday night's debate in New Hampshire. Chuck Todd of MSNBC asked Hillary Clinton: "Are you willing to release the transcripts of all your paid speeches? We do know, through reporting, that there were transcription services for all those paid speeches. In full disclosure, would you release all of them?"

Mrs. Clinton responded: "I will look into it. I don't know the status but I will certainly look into it."

Let's see how long it will take for her large staff and contacts with these business groups "to look into it."

According to the New York Times, her "contracts for such events typically include strict confidentiality agreements, meaning there are no known video recordings of Mrs. Clinton's Wall Street appearances." But why would Clinton, in a heated contest with Sen. Bernie Sanders, maintain this cloak of secrecy and further the speculation it feeds? Could it have something to do with the many deals and entanglements, for political pursuits and self-enrichment, that have enveloped both Clintons over the years, detailed in Peter Schweizer's recent book, Clinton Cash?

Were the contents of these meetings with business interests revealed, Hillary Clinton would lose more control of the progressive narrative she has worked hard to fabricate. Reporters, opponents and voters would quickly start to make connections and conclusions, whether rooted in fact or surmise. Her campaign message, recently garnished with progressive language to thwart Sanders, would be overshadowed.

What might have Hillary Clinton told these commercial audiences? What did those in attendance want to hear from her in such closed-door sessions? She says she spoke at these corporate gatherings about the state of the world. That is a big umbrella indeed. No doubt she delivered her views of U.S. foreign and military policy - unclassified observations she made in media interviews or public addresses. However, Hillary does her homework for each specific audience she addresses; it's her way of responding to their priority interests and impressing them with her command of the subject matter.

For example, Morgan Stanley, one of many major Wall Street supporters of her electoral campaigns, is a strong supporter of the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty. So was she until recently, when she expediently stepped back with some skepticism about its labor and environmental contents. What did she say to Morgan Stanley's officials when she was with them on the TPP, opposed by many voters?

According to Politico, drawing leaks from attendees, she told the Goldman-Sachs financiers that banker-bashing was unproductive and foolish. What these businesspeople want, of course, is access, should she become president, and such meetings generate friendships. They also want to hear Hillary Clinton's views on regulation, tax policies, subsidies, government contracting matters and trade. We won't know what she told those groups, who made her a millionaire many times over (she received in a single speech five times the household median income for a year) until the press and the people demand their right to know and judge her accordingly.

So far she has been able to dodge disclosing the content of her speeches, while interviewers were focusing on the giant speech fees. But now she is in New Hampshire - the last state of "retail campaigning" and town meetings where voters can put face-to-face to Clinton the demand that she disclose the content of her speeches inside these closed-door business gatherings. Once she leaves New Hampshire, her flaks and screeners will rapidly replace people-to-people dialogue with big-media buys and photo opportunities.

The right to know is never more important than when it pertains to the activities of presidential candidates. The White House is a cauldron of excessive secrecy - secret deals, secret memos, secret meetings with special interests on matters of serious public policy. Morbid secrecy breeds recklessness and bad government. If there is ever a time to teach presidential candidates about openness in government, it is when they are desperately seeking our votes.

Inquiring voters and Bernie Sanders now have an opportunity to make transparency an important matter of candidate accountability and believability. Otherwise, manipulative and deceptive rhetoric holds sway.

In any event, before Hillary Clinton departs from New Hampshire on Tuesday, the voters themselves who meet her can insist that she tell them just what she told those business magnates on Wall Street. She has a large staff and good files for fully and promptly responding to lifting this strange curtain of secrecy around closed speeches for big fees.

Her laughing off any such questions is not the way, as I recall, New Hampshirites expect candidates to treat them. My mother always had a way with getting answers from candidates she met. On shaking hands with a candidate, she did not let go of the candidate's hand until she got her answer.

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7 Ways To Spend The Money From Obama's Proposed Oil Tax

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-02-05 18:36

President Obama is set to propose a $10-per-barrel oil tax to fund green transportation projects.

Under this bold plan, which will be part of the 2017 budget request sent to Congress on Tuesday, the government would raise an estimated $32 billion from oil companies to improve infrastructure systems across the country and invest in research and development for low-carbon technologies.

While the proposal is unlikely to receive Congressional approval, there are a number of environmentally savvy projects the government could subsidize with money raised from such an oil tax. Here are seven of them:

1. Bike lanes -- to reduce cars on the road

Bike lanes are an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient transportation investment. Obama could allot funds to cities to build new lanes, and get commuters out of carbon-dioxide emitting cars and onto two-wheelers.

2. Self-driving cars -- for fuel-efficiency

Autonomous vehicles will likely be more fuel-efficient than cars on the road today. Obama will propose an investment of $4 billion to promote the development of self-driving cars in the U.S. -- but this, like the oil tax idea, also has to be approved as part of the 2017 federal budget. 

3. Elon Musk's Hyperloop -- with light-speed travel for the masses

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is investing in light-speed travel for the masses with a new business, Hyperloop Technologies, testing this year in Nevada. Hyperloop Technologies' CEO Rob Lloyd said in statement that the company "will invest first in regions where we receive government advocacy to move fast" -- so some government funds would certainly help.

4. Mass transit -- to update for efficiency

While efficient mass transit is a smart solution to save fuel and travel time, upgrades to existing infrastructure can be costly -- so can new projects. For New York City alone, the mayor's proposal of a 16-mile streetcar route is expected to cost about $2.5 billion. Building new subway tunnels could cost even more.

5. Electric cars -- to reduce greenhouse gases

The environmental friendliness of an electric car largely depends on your location. It's a question of calculating the emissions produced by gasoline car tailpipes versus the emissions produced by the electricity grids that power EVs. This makes it difficult to determine a smart federal subsidy. But assuming power grids will get cleaner, moving away from gasoline cars and toward electric ones gives us a shot at zero-carbon transportation.

6. Smart traffic tech -- to reduce gridlock

Smart traffic technology is helping to improve transit efficiency around the world, with innovations like sensors that collect real-time data and transmit them for analysis, helping cities make better transportation decisions. For instance, with congestion currently costing New York City about $13 billion in revenue, any investment to alleviate traffic would surely help.

7. High-speed rails -- to slash carbon dioxide emissions

The environmental benefits of high-speed rails are clear, with some estimates calculating that each 240-mile train trip eliminates 113 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger. But the financial cost is real: California is considering building a 220-mph bullet train, but the estimated cost is $68 billion.

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