Joe Biden finally enters 2020 presidential race

Joe Biden finally enters 2020 presidential race

Former economic adviser to President Obama Robert Wolf explains why the 2020 candidate is resonating with Democrat primary voters in the polls. #FoxandFriends #FoxNews

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Symbolism is important political strategy for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

A supporter attending an election rally in Meerut, northeast of New Delhi, on March 28, shouts a slogan as he holds up a mask depicting a likeness of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. | AP

VARANASI, INDIA – In the Indian city Hindus consider the center of the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has commissioned a grand promenade connecting the sacred Ganges River with the centuries-old Vishwanath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the god of destruction.

It’s a project dripping with equal parts symbolism — Modi, the devout Hindu, restoring the ancient connection between two religious icons — and political calculation. In his five years as prime minister, Modi has pushed to promote this secular nation of 1.3 billion people and nine major religions — including about 170 million Muslims — as a distinctly Hindu state.

The $115 million promenade is just one of a number of Modi’s religious glamour projects, aimed squarely at pleasing his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s base ahead of elections that start Thursday. While India is majority Hindu, critics say such projects undermine India’s multiculturalism, potentially stoke religious tension, and come at the expense of far more pressing infrastructure needs.

The project is also part of a larger Hindu nationalist effort to erase evidence of India’s diverse past.

Modi, 68, has long understood how politics and religion intertwine in Varanasi. Despite hailing from the western state of Gujarat, he has chosen to run for a second time as the parliamentary candidate for Varanasi.

There are those who say the money could have been better spent in one of the world’s oldest living cities, where men relieve themselves in public on trash-strewn streets and sewage flows into the Ganges near religious bathers, funeral pyres and crowds of devotees who gather by its waters for nightly prayers.

And some Varanasi Muslims fear the project could embolden Hindu hard-liners who have demanded for decades that the 17th century Gyanvapi mosque — which they claim was built over an earlier Vishwanath temple demolished in the Mughal era — should itself be torn down.

The demolition of around 300 commercial and residential buildings to make way for the promenade has left a gaping hole in Varanasi’s urban core, a congested maze of zig-zagging brick lanes full of religious shrines.

Outside the heavily guarded temple and mosque complex ringed with barbed wire, where photography is prohibited, Aijaz Mohammed Islahi, the mosque’s caretaker, said he fears the new clearing could allow right-wing Hindus to form a mob and attack the mosque.

Around a Hindu festival day in March, Islahi said, a group tried to install a Hindu statue near the mosque to assert a claim on the property.

“They thought they would quietly garland the statue and people will accept the change after a couple of days,” he said.

The Vishwanath project is part of a broader campaign to downplay the Muslim Mughal dynasty’s place in Indian history. The campaign includes restoring the Hindu names of cities that were renamed by Mughals centuries ago and excluding the Taj Mahal,…

Why Trump-era policies create new barriers to legal immigration to the US

Newly sworn in US citizens celebrate during a naturalization ceremony where 633 immigrants became US citizens on January 22 in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Newly sworn in US citizens celebrate during a naturalization ceremony where 633 immigrants became US citizens on January 22 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

When Moshe Schulman’s then fiancee visited the United States consulate in Casablanca, he believed that she would leave her interview – for a K-1 visa – with permission to return to New York and they could finally stop conducting their relationship long-distance.

Instead, she walked out with even more paperwork.

The supplementary form she was assigned – DS-5535 – is a brainchild of Donald Trump’s administration. After an executive order and memorandum from the White House calling for “enhanced vetting” of foreign nationals, the state department also announced a three-page document for visa applicants whom consular officers believe could pose terrorist or national security threats.

That experience – in finding sudden new barriers to legal immigration to the US – is hardly unique. From more in-person interviews, to stricter guidance on denying student visas, to travel bans, to lower refugee caps, experts say recent policy shifts have impacted the number of foreign nationals who are coming to America. On top of that is recent news that the Trump administration wants to close all international offices of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, shifting the paperwork back to the US – but almost certainly adding to delays for those seeking to come to America from abroad.

As more data from the last two years become available, the long-term effects of such actions are finally coming into focus.

During the first nine months of fiscal year 2018, immigration application denials increased by 37% since fiscal year 2016, according to the Cato Institute’s immigration policy analyst David Bier. Reuters reported that more than 37,000 visa applications were refused in 2018 as a direct result of the administration’s travel ban on primarily Muslim-majority countries.

K-1 visas for fiances of US citizens dropped 35.7% in fiscal year 2018, compared to 2016, and student visas declined by 23%, according to state department data.

“The key is that this is no longer speculation. We’re now seeing the consequences of the rhetoric and the policy,” said Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.

Schulman’s partner – who asked to remain anonymous – spent a year in the US for an internship and completed her master’s degree in France. But her history in the west didn’t prevent her from being flagged for additional vetting.

Schulman suspects his partner’s obviously Arabic name had…

Why Trump-era policies create new barriers to legal immigration to the US

Newly sworn in US citizens celebrate during a naturalization ceremony where 633 immigrants became US citizens on January 22 in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Newly sworn in US citizens celebrate during a naturalization ceremony where 633 immigrants became US citizens on January 22 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

When Moshe Schulman’s then fiancee visited the United States consulate in Casablanca, he believed that she would leave her interview – for a K-1 visa – with permission to return to New York and they could finally stop conducting their relationship long-distance.

Instead, she walked out with even more paperwork.

The supplementary form she was assigned – DS-5535 – is a brainchild of Donald Trump’s administration. After an executive order and memorandum from the White House calling for “enhanced vetting” of foreign nationals, the state department also announced a three-page document for visa applicants whom consular officers believe could pose terrorist or national security threats.

That experience – in finding sudden new barriers to legal immigration to the US – is hardly unique. From more in-person interviews, to stricter guidance on denying student visas, to travel bans, to lower refugee caps, experts say recent policy shifts have impacted the number of foreign nationals who are coming to America. On top of that is recent news that the Trump administration wants to close all international offices of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, shifting the paperwork back to the US – but almost certainly adding to delays for those seeking to come to America from abroad.

As more data from the last two years become available, the long-term effects of such actions are finally coming into focus.

During the first nine months of fiscal year 2018, immigration application denials increased by 37% since fiscal year 2016, according to the Cato Institute’s immigration policy analyst David Bier. Reuters reported that more than 37,000 visa applications were refused in 2018 as a direct result of the administration’s travel ban on primarily Muslim-majority countries.

K-1 visas for fiances of US citizens dropped 35.7% in fiscal year 2018, compared to 2016, and student visas declined by 23%, according to state department data.

“The key is that this is no longer speculation. We’re now seeing the consequences of the rhetoric and the policy,” said Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.

Schulman’s partner – who asked to remain anonymous – spent a year in the US for an internship and completed her master’s degree in France. But her history in the west didn’t prevent her from being flagged for additional vetting.

Schulman suspects his partner’s obviously Arabic name had…

People Before Politics reboots to advance Gov. LePage policies

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BANGOR, Maine (AP) — A nonprofit advocacy group linked to Republican former Gov. Paul LePage has geared up in recent months to protect fiscally conservative policies he favored.

Maine People Before Politics, born of LePage’s 2010 inaugural committee, has hired two former officials from his administration. It is rallying opposition to a proposed carbon tax, criticizing Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed budget and has reactivated its online presence, the Bangor Daily News reported.

LePage’s push to influence state politics even as he lives in Florida is an unusual move for a former governor. But his spokespeople say…

Politics Trump Policy Once Again in Budget Debate

The Trump administration just delivered a massive budget to Congress. A look at the numbers and the talking points drafted to defend it confirms that budgets favor politics over policy. This also confirms that it really doesn’t really matter who is in the White House. Big spenders will spend and then dissemble to cover up their fiscal irresponsibility.

The fiscal year 2020 budget proposes spending $4.7 trillion. That’s up from $4.5 trillion last year and $4.1 trillion in FY 2018. Meanwhile, assuming that the tax cuts set to expire in 2025 do not expire, tax revenue will grow to $3.6 trillion in FY 2020, up from $3.4 trillion last year and $3.3 trillion in FY 2018. Spending between FY 2020 and FY 2029 will grow by 40 percent, and thanks to projected GDP growth averaging 3 percent over the next decade, revenue may grow by 72 percent during that time.

Despite a growing economy, relative peace in the world and no recent national emergencies, the annual deficit will reach $1.1 trillion in FY 2020. Also, $2 trillion have been added to the debt during the last two years. While the deficit is projected to be cut in half over the next decade and the debt may stabilize, as we shall see, these numbers carry little credibility.

The prediction of 72 percent growth in revenue is propped up by very unrealistic economic growth rates and should put to bed the notion that economic growth rates alone (even fallacious ones) can get us out of this fiscal mess we are in. That’s because this deficit is not driven by a lack of economic growth…

The Green New Deal and the new politics of climate change

Street politics of climate change movement. DisobeyArt

The Green New Deal (GND) has done the impossible. It has exorcized climate talk from its “IPCC fatigue” and brought climate issues to the center stage of US national politics. The reality is that scientific reports were not moving the policy needle sufficiently. US carbon emissions rose in 2018, after years of decline. Of course, climate deniers, the media, and the fossil fuel industry have played a major role in creating policy inaction. But many climate advocates have also ignored a deeper problem: technical reports are a poor substitute for political mobilization.

The GND is an aspirational idea; it lacks policy coherence and a legislative roadmap. Yet, it has moved climate conversations from fretting about IPCC reports to topics that people can relate to. Its vocabulary is simple and accessible. Politicians may hate the GND or love it, but they cannot duck it. It has unleashed a new kind of street politics.

How did the GND manage to change climate politics? After all, the climate movement—a loose network of scientists, environmental, and citizen groups—was doing everything that advocacy groups typically do, such as lobbying governments and policymakers, persuading firms, and talking directly to people. What was missing?

If you want a policy to change, your activities need a connecting logic, a “theory of change”. This means that advocates should have a clear narrative on “what” needs to change (goals) and “why” this change should happen (rationale). But, importantly, they should also have a clear political strategy on “how” they will bring about this change.

The climate movement did well in identifying its goal. Armed with scientific reports, the movement also showed why climate action was needed. However, the movement did not do well on the “how” issue. Probably because while the “what” and the “why” questions tend to have scientific answers, the “how” is about politics. After all, the climate movement wants a transition to a low carbon economy, and this requires persuading a lot of people to re-organize their lives. The movement assumed that when people are told about the seriousness of climate issues by top scientists, they will reorganize. Coal miners will start installing solar panels, and blue-collar workers will retrain for new jobs. And people will junk their…

Bad Policy, Good Politics

Pete Marovich for The New York Times

This article is part of David Leonhardt’s newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it each weekday.

The Green New Deal is not a good piece of policy. But I’m glad it exists.

I’m glad it exists because climate change and the stagnation of mass living standards are both defining challenges for this country. And the authors of the Green New Deal — Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — have the admirable ambition to take on both.

The plan doesn’t ask what is politically possible today. It asks what needs to be done and tries to change the definition of politically possible. “Climate change is an unprecedented emergency that requires unprecedented action,” Michael Grunwald writes in Politico, “so America needs to try to do seemingly impossible things.”

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

The Green New Deal rightly rejects the choice between helping American workers and taking on climate change. The country needs to do both, and it can. By focusing on the terrifying state of the climate, the plan will likely nudge other Democrats toward their own ambitious climate proposals.

So why isn’t it a good policy?

Too little, too much

The overview released by Markey and Ocasio-Cortez has two main flaws:

  • Although the plan does a…

The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Cory in the House?

Julio Cortez / AP

What We’re Following Today

It’s Friday, February 1. As a bipartisan group of lawmakers works to reach a deal on border security before February 15, President Donald Trump told reporters that there’s a “good chance” he’ll declare a national emergency to secure funding for a border wall. The president also celebrated the U.S. economy adding 304,000 jobs in January.

Meanwhile, in foreign-affairs news, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he’s withdrawing the U.S. from its nuclear-arms-control treaty with Russia. “For years, Russia has violated the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty without remorse,” he said. “Russia’s violations put millions of Europeans and Americans at greater risk.”

He’s Running: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey spent Thursday night at a secret church service in Newark, where he was anointed by the church’s reverend. Twelve hours later, he announced his bid for the presidency in 2020. Edward-Isaac Dovere was there to watch it all go down. Meanwhile, as Howard Schultz, the billionaire ex-CEO of Starbucks, ponders whether he’ll launch his own presidential campaign, his many similarities to Donald Trump have become clear. The problem, argues David A. Graham, is that “neither Schultz nor any of his billionaire peers is going to be able to match Trump, because they don’t have the right views.”

The Test Is Yet to Come: In a review of The Chief, the first biography of Chief Justice John Roberts, Michael O’Donnell imagines how Roberts—who writes fierce conservative opinions, but believes strongly in…

Labour would lose voters with ‘stop Brexit’ policy, poll suggests

Jeremy Corbyn

A leaked poll commissioned by the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign suggests that voters would be less likely to back Labour if the party was committed to stopping Brexit.

According to the poll, passed to the Guardian, almost a third of respondents said they would be less likely to vote Labour, a similar number to those who said it would not make a difference. Twenty-five per cent said it would make them more likely to back Labour, with the rest saying they did not know.

The campaign group, which is pushing for a second EU referendum, commissioned the as yet unreleased snap poll shortly before MPs voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The Populus poll asked 2,000 people whether they would be more or less likely to vote Labour “if they commit to stop Brexit”.

The polling also showed the party would lose around the same number of Labour voters as it would gain from the Conservatives.

Just 9% of Conservative voters would switch to Labour in those circumstances, but 11% of current Labour voters said it would…