Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Change of Course for Pete Buttigieg

The Story: Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has returned $30,000 of donations to the lobbyists it came from as part...
Mike Pompeo: America has a responsibility to push back and protect itself from 'evil nations'

US/Iran Relationship Deteriorates

The Story:  On April 21, the United States demanded that countries importing oil from Iran stop doing so by May 1, saying that they will...

The politics of “Avengers: Endgame”: Thanos, Iron Man and the Malthusian extreme

When Gamora protested that he couldn't possibly know that to a certainty, Thanos responded, "I'm the only one who knows that. One of the best things about "Avengers: Endgame," though, is how it uses that philosophy to look into Thanos' soul — and how the Avenger who winds up killing Thanos was the living embodiment of the opposite worldview. The population reduction strategy, though evil, was not without its benefits. Instead of seeing that the moral consequences of his iconic finger snap were too much for the world to bear — that the universe would much rather deal with its resource allocation problems in a humane way than simply kill off half the population — Thanos instead argues that life is stubbornly unwilling to accept the wisdom of his approach, and is therefore unworthy of living at all. Although he becomes a superhero by the end of that film, he is still motivated by selfishness through the 2010 sequel "Iron Man 2," during which Stark directly reenacts plot points from "Atlas Shrugged." In the 2015 movie "Avengers: Age of Ultron," Stark creates an artificially intelligent robot named Ultron (James Spader) who believes that human beings need to go extinct to create a better world. As Stark correctly observes, "If we can't accept limitations, we’re boundaryless, we're no better than the bad guys." While both Thanos and Iron Man balance egotism with idealism in the beginning, and neither fully shed their arrogance or self-absorption, Iron Man's redeeming quality was his willingness to learn from his mistakes. The feckless billionaire playboy from the beginning of "Iron Man" and greedy capitalist in "Iron Man 2" eventually became the advocate of reasonable government regulation in "Captain America: Civil War" and, finally, the Christ-like figure willing to die so that the universe can live at the end of "Avengers: Endgame." And that's why it remains so powerful to consider the final dialogue exchange between those two characters, when Thanos says that he is inevitable and Stark simply responds, "And I am Iron Man."

Brexit talks take positive turn towards possible compromise

Cross-party talks on Brexit between the government and Labour have moved on to the “nuts and bolts” of a possible compromise, Labour’s Sue Hayman has said, with sources on both sides suggesting discussions were taking a more positive tone. Hayman, the shadow environment secretary, said it was “a really constructive discussion” that had been “getting much more into the nuts and bolts of the detail.” She said she now believed the government was “open to moving forward in our direction”. The government has all but abandoned plans to try to force through the Brexit deal using the withdrawal agreement bill and will instead try to devise a way to forge a compromise through new indicative votes if talks with Labour break down. Government sources had previously suggested that, if the talks ultimately ended in impasse, May could use the withdrawal agreement bill to ratify the Brexit agreement and legislate for guarantees on the environment and workers’ rights. However, it is understood the government now believes it is unlikely to reach an agreement with Labour that would enable it to bring the bill to parliament without risking it being voted down at second reading. Downing Street hopes it could get Labour support for a new process of indicative votes, meaning a guaranteed majority for whatever came out the other end, but that support is also not assured. Lidington has previously hinted that a new process for determining what could command a majority in parliament was now needed, rather than a process that produced no support for any option. The meeting in the Cabinet Office was held with their Labour counterparts, including the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary. The prime minister’s spokesman said the government wanted to get the EU withdrawal agreement bill through parliament first. “That is part of the current Queen’s speech cycle and we need to finish that work.” Bringing the speech forward could give MPs the opportunity to show there is no confidence in the government by voting it down, especially if parliament voted against the EU withdrawal bill and the Queen’s speech was used to introduce it again.

Op-Ed: The dangers of political showmanship

America has been a free speech zone since our founding. Free speech led to The Revolutionary War. It stopped bad wars and ended slavery. America was founded on activism by men of honor whose actions spoke louder than their words. If it wasn’t for Paine’s activism, we’d still be subjects instead of citizens. “A man’s actions say much more than his most noble words.” – Thomas Paine Throughout our modern history, the activism of true leaders has made our nation stronger and far better than it would have been without them. Following the Tea Party Movement, tribal clans of self-anointed activist groups sprang up around America faster than Obama could say “change.” And the America Obama had divided, subdivided into activist bedlam. They were heroes of the day with mock activist groups. But their social media fame faded on Election Day as voters elected people who’d write laws to improve their lives, not to entertain activists. They had no experience, or knowledge of law, and campaigned to cause chaos in Congress.

On Politics: Inside the Obama-Biden Relationship

Good Monday morning. Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today. This is the story behind the relationship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden. • Attorney General William P. Barr and congressional Democrats clashed on Sunday over his scheduled testimony before the House Judiciary Committee this week, with Mr. Barr threatening to skip the session and the panel’s chairman threatening to subpoena him. • As House Democrats return to Washington after a two-week recess, they will find a Capitol consumed by the Mueller report. But rank-and-file Democrats are not being propelled by their constituents into impeaching the president. • Guantánamo Bay as nursing home: With no sign that the prison will close, the Pentagon has begun planning for detainees to grow old at the American military base in Cuba. • As Washington wrestles with Mr. Trump’s refusal to grant more disaster relief to Puerto Rico, farmers affected by disaster elsewhere have been left in limbo. • Mr. Trump on Saturday repeated an inaccurate claim about doctors “executing babies.” Here’s the truth. • Ron Chernow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, hosted the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, breaking from the tradition of featuring a comedian.

Trump, Media Assaults on Omar a New Low for American Politics

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent, @StacyBrownMedia American politics appears to have hit a new low. According to reports, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has beefed up security following the vicious attacks she’s received and even news reports that paint her as un-American. “It is trafficking in Islamophobia, and should be condemned by everyone,” Booker said. Some media favorable to the president have also attacked Omar and despite death threats made against her, Trump has continued his assault by calling her –without any supporting evidence and against her denials – “anti-Semitic,” and “anti-Israel.” Booker noted that Trump has also attacked other African American women leaders like California Rep. Maxine Waters. That Trump claims he’s not racist isn’t satisfactory, Booker said. “It’s not enough to say, I’m not a racist. Matthew Haviland, 30, of North Kingstown was charged after sending approximately 28 threatening emails on March 10 to a college professor, whose name and affiliation was withheld by federal officials. The professor, who had been friends with Haviland for about 11 years, believed Haviland’s views changed because “of the way the news media portrays” President Donald Trump, Laft wrote. Authorities said Omar was among the Democrats whom Haviland threatened to kill. “We, as a people, cannot allow our Black leaders to be attacked for their advocacy.

Watch Trump Dismantle Your Will to Live During His Unhinged Rally

Andrew Harnik/AP/REX/Shutterstock President Donald Trump went on a 90-minute extended rant during his rally in Wisconsin on Saturday night, programmed against the White House Correspondents Dinner that he refused to attend. During his unhinged monologue, the president said many ridiculous things that will sap your will to continue living in this nightmare dystopia, including: accusing mothers and doctors of executing newborns, calling the media “sick” and ex-FBI officials “scum,” claiming credit for the “sick” idea of sending undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities, and doing an impression of the Saudi king’s accent. Speaking about abortion, Trump brought up a lie he’s been touting for a while: that newborn babies are “executed” by their mothers and doctors. He accused Democrats of “aggressively pushing extreme late-term abortion, allowing children to be ripped from their mothers’ womb right up until the moment of birth.” Then, he went even further, saying, “The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. Here's Trump making another false & unspeakably dangerous claim about abortion: "The baby is born; the mother meets with the doctor. Then the doctor & mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby." “These were dirty players… They’re just leaving because they got caught like nobody ever got caught.” Wow — Trump refers to the FBI and DOJ leaders he's purged from government as "scum" pic.twitter.com/mkjiWZ68cp — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 28, 2019 The president also said he was “proud” of his “sick” idea to ship undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities. Trump says sending illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities was his “sick idea” https://t.co/vCzpWKoYwh pic.twitter.com/idJYdjpZOT Speaking about America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Trump talked about his defense of Saudi King Salman in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “I said, King, We are losing our ass defending you, King, and you have a lot of money,” Trump claimed he said to Salman. pic.twitter.com/TVFMHdz9Oo — Tomthunkit™ (@TomthunkitsMind) April 28, 2019 Before the rally, Trump promised it would be “very positive,” unlike the White House Correspondents Dinner.

When politics crowds out good tax policy

Glen Hodgson is a senior fellow at the C.D. All too often, proposed changes to the tax system have been designed first and foremost to win popular support, regardless whether there is any hard evidence that it would be good for the economy and society. Economic analysis suggests sales tax rates should be raised and personal income taxes cut to improve incentives to work and save. For example, increasing the top income tax rate was justified by the current Liberal federal government as a way to improve tax fairness. The latest example of opportunistic tax politics crowding out good tax policy is carbon pricing. Putting a price on them creates an incentive to innovate and to modify behaviour – consumers can avoid paying the tax by reducing their emissions. Using the price system to change incentives was once considered a conservative idea. History shows that political leaders are able on occasion to look past the short term and achieve alignment between successful tax politics and good tax policy. The Harper government successfully reduced corporate income tax rates to improve Canadian business competitiveness, with little serious negative public response. Ontario’s Liberal government successfully reformed its sales tax system, harmonizing it with the federal GST and got re-elected.

Trump’s UK visit and the power of protest

His scattergun disdain appears to condemn as meaningless any mass objection that cannot result in the instantaneous withering of the intended political target. His reference to Ceauşescu, Mugabe and Mobutu as precedents for tolerating Trump’s state visit is equally mystifying. It could at least be argued (however weakly) that in their invitation lay the desperate hope of some leverage to be ventured against murderous tyrants otherwise immune to moral shaming, economic sanction or political threats. Offering such painful truths from within this so-called special relationship can be easily understood on both sides of the Atlantic as entirely legitimate objections to the man, not the office. Paul McGilchrist Colchester, Essex • I am sure Simon Jenkins regards himself as a voice of reason, and he is undoubtedly blessed with considerable intellect. Dave Hunter Bristol • Simon Jenkins’ cogent article on Donald Trump’s visit in June is extremely well argued. David Halley Hampton Hill, London • Perhaps it’s out of a misguided notion of balance that you’ve allowed Simon Jenkins to scorn protesters against Trump’s state visit, Attenborough’s climate change programme and Greta Thunberg. He says we need debate, not direct action. Debate is only workable when the participants offer and attend to evidence. John Huntley Manchester • Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com • Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters • Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers?