Posts tagged politics

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The Conservative Case for a Guaranteed Basic Income

It would be great if there was a policy like this that the left and right could agree on.

The idea isn’t new. As Frum notes, Friederich Hayek endorsed it. In 1962, the libertarian economist Milton Friedman advocated a minimum guaranteed income via a “negative income tax.” In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” Richard Nixon unsuccessfully tried to pass a version of Friedman’s plan a few years later, and his Democratic opponent in the 1972 presidential election, George McGovern, also suggested a guaranteed annual income. Related Story A Rule for Conservative Anti-Poverty Plans: Keep It Simple

More recently, in a 2006 book, conservative intellectual Charles Murray proposed eliminating all welfare transfer programs, including Social Security and Medicare, and substituting an annual $10,000 cash grant to everyone 21 years and older. The Alaska Permanent Fund, funded by investments from state oil revenues, sends annual dividend checks to the state’s residents. Switzerland is voting on an unconditional basic income later this year. (Though the fundamental basic-income guarantee involves an unconditional grant to every citizen, no matter their wealth or age, other versions wouldn’t cut checks to those in top tax brackets or those receiving Social Security.)

Apart from lifting millions out of poverty, the plans promote efficiency and a shrinking of the federal bureaucracy. No more “79 means-tested programs.” Creating a single point of access would also make many recipients’ lives easier. If they knew they had something to fall back on, workers could negotiate better wages and conditions, or go back to school, or quit a low-paying job to care for a child or aging relative. And with an unconditional basic income, workers wouldn’t have to worry about how making more money might lead to the loss of crucial benefits. In the Financial Times, Martin Wolf has contemplated a guaranteed income’s ability to help society adjust to the disappearance of low-skill, low-wage jobs.

Yet the effort to create a reform conservatism and reconstitute the GOP as the “party of ideas” seems to demand contemplating legitimately radical new ideas on welfare reform. In the introduction to Room To Grow, Levin writes, “these ideas embody a conservative vision that sees public policy not as the manager of society but as an enabler of bottom-up incremental improvements.” Scott Winship, in a welfare-reform essay later in the same document, writes approvingly of Levin’s desire to provide an “alternative to the fundamentally prescriptive, technocratic approach inherent in the logic of the liberal welfare state.” A guaranteed income, in any form, would tear that logic apart. Maybe conservative welfare reform still has some room to grow.

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When all you have is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail.

When all you have is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail.

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Beautiful dream of Israel has become a nightmare

As a Jewish youngster growing up in Budapest, an infant survivor of the Nazi genocide, I was for years haunted by a question resounding in my brain with such force that sometimes my head would spin: “How was it possible? How could the world have let such horrors happen?”

It was a naïve question, that of a child. I know better now: such is reality. Whether in Vietnam or Rwanda or Syria, humanity stands by either complicitly or unconsciously or helplessly, as it always does. In Gaza today we find ways of justifying the bombing of hospitals, the annihilation of families at dinner, the killing of pre-adolescents playing soccer on a beach.

In Israel-Palestine the powerful party has succeeded in painting itself as the victim, while the ones being killed and maimed become the perpetrators. “They don’t care about life,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, abetted by the Obamas and Harpers of this world, “we do.” Netanyahu, you who with surgical precision slaughter innocents, the young and the old, you who have cruelly blockaded Gaza for years, starving it of necessities, you who deprive Palestinians of more and more of their land, their water, their crops, their trees — you care about life?

There is no understanding Gaza out of context — Hamas rockets or unjustifiable terrorist attacks on civilians — and that context is the longest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the recent and present centuries, the ongoing attempt to destroy Palestinian nationhood.

The Palestinians use tunnels? So did my heroes, the poorly armed fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unlike Israel, Palestinians lack Apache helicopters, guided drones, jet fighters with bombs, laser-guided artillery. Out of impotent defiance, they fire inept rockets, causing terror for innocent Israelis but rarely physical harm. With such a gross imbalance of power, there is no equivalence of culpability.

Israel wants peace? Perhaps, but as the veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has pointed out, it does not want a just peace. Occupation and creeping annexation, an inhumane blockade, the destruction of olive groves, the arbitrary imprisonment of thousands, torture, daily humiliation of civilians, house demolitions: these are not policies compatible with any desire for a just peace. In Tel Aviv Gideon Levy now moves around with a bodyguard, the price of speaking the truth.

Read the rest here

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How the West Caused the Ukraine Crisis

Wow, this guy wrote the article I wish I would have. I’ve been saying this since the beginning of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. All of this could have been avoided had the EU and NATO had made better policy decisions and known the limits of their power.

According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the argument goes, annexed Crimea out of a long-standing desire to resuscitate the Soviet empire, and he may eventually go after the rest of Ukraine, as well as other countries in eastern Europe. In this view, the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 merely provided a pretext for Putin’s decision to order Russian forces to seize part of Ukraine.

But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine — beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 — were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president — which he rightly labeled a “coup” — was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West.

Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise. After all, the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly. Elites in the United States and Europe have been blindsided by events only because they subscribe to a flawed view of international politics. They tend to believe that the logic of realism holds little relevance in the twenty-first century and that Europe can be kept whole and free on the basis of such liberal principles as the rule of law, economic interdependence, and democracy.

But this grand scheme went awry in Ukraine. The crisis there shows that realpolitik remains relevant — and states that ignore it do so at their own peril. U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border. Now that the consequences have been laid bare, it would be an even greater mistake to continue this misbegotten policy.

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The situation in Gaza explained with a map by lemondefr

Everyone talks about Gaza, but few people really know what the hell is going on and how did it all get to this point. French newspaper Le Monde created this easy to follow animated map that clearly explains all you need to know. Just the pure facts laid out in a clear way. A must watch.

(via All you need to know about Gaza in one clear animated map)

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Why Aren’t More Americans Atheists?

I hope this is true and Republicans are minting a whole new crop of young atheists.

Many expressed surprise recently when, in one of its periodic surveys of Americans views of other faiths, the Pew Research Center found that atheists fare poorly - fully 40 percent of those polled described their views toward atheists as Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons all are viewed more favorably

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Why Don’t I Criticize Israel? : Sam Harris

Maybe because he’s a scientist and a rational thinker, but Sam makes the best case for supporting Israel that I’ve read. While I don’t agree entirely with his conclusions (I think the power imbalance is so huge that Israel needs to be held to account to show a lot more restraint), I do agree more or less with most of the facts he presents. Primarily because he doesn’t try to whitewash the truth like so many Israeli propagandists do. The realities are terrible and complicated and he does a good job of getting this truth across.

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"You’re not protecting the people and you’re not protecting property, so why are you there?" 

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In the past seven or more years, Israel has besieged, tormented, and regularly attacked the Gaza Strip. The pretexts change: they elected Hamas; they refused to be docile; they refused to recognize Israel; they fired rockets; they built tunnels to circumvent the siege; and on and on. But each pretext is a red herring, because the truth of ghettos—what happens when you imprison 1.8 million people in a hundred and forty square miles, about a third of the area of New York City, with no control of borders, almost no access to the sea for fishermen (three out of the twenty kilometres allowed by the Oslo accords), no real way in or out, and with drones buzzing overhead night and day—is that, eventually, the ghetto will fight back. It was true in Soweto and Belfast, and it is true in Gaza. We might not like Hamas or some of its methods, but that is not the same as accepting the proposition that Palestinians should supinely accept the denial of their right to exist as a free people in their ancestral homeland.

This is precisely why the United States’ support of current Israeli policy is folly. Peace was achieved in Northern Ireland and in South Africa because the United States and the world realized that they had to put pressure on the stronger party, holding it accountable and ending its impunity. Northern Ireland and South Africa are far from perfect examples, but it is worth remembering that, to achieve a just outcome, it was necessary for the United States to deal with groups like the Irish Republican Army and the African National Congress, which engaged in guerrilla war and even terrorism. That was the only way to embark on a road toward true peace and reconciliation. The case of Palestine is not fundamentally different.

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The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.

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