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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
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Of course not. The question is - do we the real protection of strong unions, progressive taxes and

effective corporate regulation or the illusory protection of high tariffs? Just because tariffs hurt "them" (foreigners) does not necessarily mean that they help "us" (Americans). That is why Democrats have historically been the party of low tariffs.

There are no historical or current examples of countries with strong middle classes based on high tariffs without strong unions, progressive taxes and effective regulation. And if a country has the latter, it does not need high tariffs.

There are plenty of historical and current examples of countries with strong middle classes and low tariffs. That is because the "protection" they provide their workers is "real" in the form of strong unions, high/progressive taxes, effective regulation and a viable safety net.

People were not making a "livable wage" in the 1930's. FDR lowered tariffs because

he thought it would be good for the economy. With progressive taxes and stronger unions those economic benefits were then spread to the middle class.

The 'wage differential' tariff you describe was done by republicans in 1924. The world was not so different back then. Republicans claimed to be protecting us from low-cost foreign producers.

After raising tariffs in 1921, they increased them again in 1924 and, last but not least, in 1930. FDR campaigned against these tariffs and lowered them once he was in office. Here is a description of the 1924 tariff increase bill.

The hearings held by Congress led to the creation of several new tools of protection. The first was the scientific tariff. The purpose of the scientific tariff was to equalize production costs among countries so that no country could undercut the prices charged by American companies. The difference of production costs was calculated by the Tariff Commission.

A second novelty was the American Selling Price. This allowed the president to calculate the duty based on the price of the American price of a good, not the imported good.

The tariff was supported by the Republican party and conservatives and was generally opposed by the Democratic Party and liberal progressives. ... Five years after the passage of the tariff, American trading partners had raised their own tariffs by a significant degree.


Arms Treaty Now Signed by Majority of U.N. Members

A pioneering United Nations treaty aimed at regulating the global trade in conventional weapons surpassed a symbolically important threshold on Wednesday when 18 countries, most notably the United States, officially signed the document, pushing the total number to more than half of the organization’s member states.

Proponents of the treaty, which was adopted overwhelmingly by the 193-member General Assembly in April, but still required signing and ratification, said the latest signatures would provide new momentum for putting it into effect. But that goal could still be a year away, some say.

The treaty, which took seven years to negotiate, is considered by rights advocates to be a landmark document that would for the first time impose moral standards on the enormous cross-border trade in conventional arms that fuel conflicts around the world. It is devised to thwart sales to users who would break humanitarian law, foment genocide or war crimes, engage in terrorism, or kill women and children.

The treaty covers trade in tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber weapons, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and launchers, small arms, and light weapons.


Mother Jones: "We Made Them Suck Their Own Blood off the Floor:" Assad's Other War Crimes

A sketch of a detainee being hung from the ceiling by his wrists and beaten, a common torture technique in Syria.

A new report from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria illuminates the increasingly brutal tactics that the country's government—and, to a lesser degree, rebels—are deploying against civilians, from electrocution and rape to enlisting medical professionals to help torture hospitalized detainees. Significantly, while the report focuses on the commission's findings from mid-May to mid-July and doesn't cover the August chemical-weapons attack near Damascus, it concludes that both sides are guilty of war crimes and also accuses pro-government forces of crimes against humanity.

The media and human rights groups have documented a raft of brutal torture methods deployed by government forces, including electrocution; beatings with batons, cables, and whips; mock execution; burning detainees with battery acid, and ripping out facial hair. A former Syrian intelligence officer who defected to Turkey described similarly cruel techniques in an interview with CNN last year saying, "We took their fingernails out with pliers and we made them eat them. We made them suck their own blood off the floor."

Disappearances have "risen exponentially" since the Syrian conflict began, a trend that has sewn terror among the civilians, according to the United Nations. What's more, families who try to find missing relatives risk the same fate. Often, a family's only hope of getting information about a disappeared relative is from other recently released detainees. (One man who had been detained by a government intelligence service told investigators that he was rushed by "dozens of women thrusting photographs of their male relatives" upon his release.) The UN report also notes that desperation of these families has made them targets for extortion: "Some families pay bribes to those who—often falsely—claimed they could provide them information."

Contrary to claims from the Assad regime, which has blamed rebels for many of the atrocities, the UN commission found that pro-Assad forces were responsible for at least 8 massacres. Among the bloodiest was the assault on the Damascus suburb of Jdeidat Al-Fadel. In April, government forces shelled the area relentlessly, while snipers stationed along the roads out of town mowed down civilians trying to escape. The following month, the government staged its infamous raid on the Sunni villages of al-Bayda and Baniyas and slaughtered hundreds more civilians. Anti-regime activists captured video of the aftermath, which according to the BBC showed "bloodied and tangled bodies of women and children, some of them mutilated or partly incinerated." In other cases, government forces deliberately shelled hospitals, killing medical staff, along with sick and wounded civilians.


If you are conceding that government forces committed the "vast majority" of war crimes in the first

two years of the conflict, I will grant that the AI report is 6 months old.

Here's an AI report from August 29, 2013:

In the absence of an international arms embargo, and because widespread and systematic armed attacks by the Syrian armed forces and allied militias with a wide range of conventional arms have resulted in crimes against humanity, any states supplying arms to the Syrian government should halt such transfers immediately. This includes all weapons, munitions, military, security, and policing equipment, training and personnel.

In addition, no arms transfer should be made to an armed opposition group in Syria where there is a substantial risk of the group committing serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The onus should be on states considering military transfers to armed opposition groups to first ensure the establishment of concrete, enforceable and verifiable mechanisms so as to remove all substantial risks that any military equipment supplied is not misused or diverted to commit or facilitate grave human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law.


Still sounds harsher on the government forces than the rebels.

Here's excerpts from the August 16, 2013 report from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria

Unlawful killing was perpetrated by government forces as part of widespread attacks directed against the civilian population. The attacks included widespread shelling of villages, the burning of civilian objects, sniper attacks and systematic executions (see annex II). The coordination and active participation of Government institutions indicated the attacks were institutionalized and conducted as a matter of policy. Unlawful killing occurring during such attacks were crimes against humanity. Government forces also committed the war crime of murder, carried out executions without affording due process and arbitrarily deprived the right to life.

​Instances of enforced disappearance have risen exponentially since the conflict began. By placing victims outside the protection of the law, government forces sewed terror among the civilian population. ... Enforced disappearance is used by government and pro-government forces as a strategy of war, to stifle dissent and to spread terror within society. It is committed as part of a widespread attack against a civilian population, with knowledge of the attack, and constitutes a crime against humanity.

Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment were perpetrated by government forces as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against a civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of an organizational policy. The involvement and active participation of government institutions indicated that torture was institutionalized and employed as a matter of policy. The crime against humanity of torture and cruel treatment was perpetrated with impunity by Syrian intelligence agencies, in particular Military and Air Force Intelligence, as well as the Military Security services. Such conduct is also prosecutable as a war crime.


There is much more at the link to the UN agency's report on Syria.

Pew poll: Public Backs Diplomatic Approach in Syria, But Distrusts Syria and Russia

By a 67% to 23% margin, the public approves of Barack Obama’s decision to delay military airstrikes and pursue a diplomatic effort to convince Syria to give up its chemical weapons. However, just 26% think Syria will give up control of its chemical weapons, while 57% think it will not.

More generally, the public has little trust in Syria. Just 8% say the United States can trust Syria a great deal or a fair amount, while 63% say Syria cannot be trusted at all and another 22% say it can’t be trusted much. The public is skeptical of Russia as well: just 24% say the United States can trust Russia even a fair amount, down from 33% last year.

Democrats also are more likely than Republican or independents to approve of Obama’s decision to delay military airstrikes to pursue diplomatic efforts to persuade Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons. Still, majorities in all three groups – 80% of Democrats, 56% of Republicans and 65% of independents – approve of this approach.

Democrats are divided over taking military action against Syria if it does not give up control of chemical weapons (43% favor/43% oppose). About half of Republicans and independents (51% each) oppose the use of airstrikes if Syria fails to relinquish control of its chemical weapons; smaller percentages (34% of Republicans, 37% of independents) favor the use of airstrikes under this circumstance. There is somewhat more support for military airstrikes among all three groups if Syria does not give up control of chemical weapons than there was a week ago, when the prospect of a failed diplomatic solution was not raised.


New Pew poll on Obamacare: big partisan and racial/ethnic divides in support/opposition

Tea party republicans oppose Obamacare by a 94%-5% margin. (Those 5% must have to keep really quiet at their meetings. ) 64% of them want officials to actively work to make the health care law fail.

Democrats support the law by 73% to 23%.

republicans think the ACA has been bad for the country by 59% to 8% and think it will be bad for the country by 75%-9%.

Democrats believe it has been good for the country by a 41% to 20% margin and that it will be good for the country by 63%-18%.

Wide racial and ethnic gaps over health care proposals also have long persisted. However, blacks are much more supportive of the law today (91% approve) than when it was being debated in 2009 (50%).

Whites have consistently opposed the Affordable Care Act. In September 2010, 33% approved of the law and 56% disapproved. Today, just 29% approve and more than twice as many disapprove (67%).

Support for the health care law was also higher for younger people and those making under $30,000 than it was for older people and those with higher incomes.


I did not know the extent of variation in support for the ACA based on race. I had assumed that younger people (being healthier and less prone to want health insurance) would have been more negative than they are.

Of course, the partisan differences in support were not surprising.

Krugman: If republicans really believed Obamacare will be a disaster, they "should be happy to let

Obamacare come into existence, then collapse."

On one side, as Jonathan Cohn points out, inside the right-wing bubble it’s taken as gospel that Obamacare will be an utter, obvious disaster:

If you sincerely believe Obamacare will bankrupt the country, violate personal liberty, raise costs or ruin insurance for most Americans, and generally destroy American health care, then it’s easy to believe that it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the country demands repeal—forcing both Senate Democrats and the president to go along. It’s particularly easy to believe this if you live in the right-wing media bubble, where all of the reports about Obamacare focus on the law’s shortcomings and failures—insurance premiums going up, people losing coverage, part-time workers losing hours, and so on.

The last thing Republicans should want is to let Democrats snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by provoking confrontations over the budget and the debt ceiling before the American people get to experience the nightmare of expanded insurance coverage.

In fact, politically the right is acting as if it fears that Obamacare will, in reality, be highly popular — that once the exchanges and the Medicare expansion go into effect, people will decide that they like the new system, and strongly oppose efforts to reverse course. (This is almost surely the more realistic view.) So the law must be stopped at any cost before it goes into effect, and people learn first-hand that the anti-Obamacare propaganda was false.

So which is it? Are Republicans sure that disaster looms, or are they terrified because they suspect that things will be OK? My guess is, both: clear thinking is not exactly a hallmark of the modern GOP, and may indeed be a positive disqualification for career success.


Juan Cole agrees/disagrees with Putin's OpEd.

Putin is correct that a US missile attack on Syria could have unpredictable effects.

He then says that there are few champions of democracy in Syria, depicting the struggle as one between the ‘government’ and al-Qaeda extremists. He does not characterize the ‘government’ but surely it should have been termed a one-party dictatorship with a brutal and vicious secret police. Given that Putin sided with Boris Yeltsin against the Communists in the early 1990s, you would think he’d be a little more sympathetic to Syrians desiring the end of their own police state. The ways in which Putin himself has cracked down on press freedom and moved away from democracy make one suspicious about his inability to see Syrian democrats. He doesn’t seem able to see Russian ones either.

Putin is wrong that there are no democrats involved in the struggle. Most Syrian oppositionists support a move of the country to free and fair parliamentary elections. It is true that Jabhat al-Nusra and a few other extremist organizations favor Muslim theocratic dictatorship, and they have had the big victories on the battlefield. But that doesn’t make them representative of the opposition. They just have more battle experience (many fought US troops in Iraq). By erasing the democratic opposition, Putin has done away with perhaps a majority of Syrians, and made it easy for his readers to side with a brutal secular government against a brutal set of al-Qaeda affiliates. It is a false choice.

Putin is correct that US military intervention in Iraq did not go well. But as for Afghanistan, it was the Soviet invasion and occupation of that country that destabilized it in the first place. Putin’s old organization, the KGB, was hardly blameless in such actions.


Juan Cole: Top Ten things Americans need to Know about Syria if they’re going to Threaten to Bomb It

4. The Syrian revolution and civil war did not begin as primarily sectarian. It is to some extent a class struggle. High population growth rates and economic stagnation made the state unable to provide jobs to a burgeoning youth population. Droughts and the bad effects of global warming also created a water crisis that harmed farmers and pushed youth off the farms into city slums where, after the 2008 world crash, there were no jobs. The big protests in 2011 originated in the slums around the cities in the center of the country, where young men who had moved there for work from the countryside found themselves locked into long-term unemployment. The governmental and business elite in Damascus benefits from the regime and has mostly remained loyal or neutral, whether they are Sunnis or Alawites. About half of the large northern city of Aleppo is still with the regime, as well. Because the upper ranks of the ruling Baath Party are disproportionately dominated by the Alawite minority, and because so many discontented youth in the cities of the center are Sunni, the conflict took on a sectarian tinge. But its underpinnings are economic.

6. If the US were to intervene in Syria, it certainly would not be about oil. Syria was not a significant oil exporter. By 2009 it was producing less than 400,000 barrels a day. The world produces on the order of 90 million barrels of oil a day, and some countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia by themselves produce in the neighborhood of 10 million barrels a day. Nor is Syria necessary to pipelines in the region. Iraq’s northern fields feed into Turkish pipelines, and Turkey is anyway so far much more stable than Syria. Syria’s production has been more than halved by the war, but the loss to the world markets is minor. Libya’s production has fallen by nearly a million barrels a day in the past year because of oil worker strikes and autonomist, Eastern claims on resources, and this shortfall has barely produced any comment in the American press.

7. Some 60% of Syrians are Sunni Arabs, i.e., adherents of the Sunni branch of Islam who speak Arabic as their mother tongue. Sunni Arabs also predominate in Jordan and Egypt. Large numbers of Syrian Sunnis are secularists, either nationalists or leftists, and not very observant. Many Syrian Sunnis still follow the tolerant, mystical Sufi form of Islam. Others have come under Saudi influence and are known as Salafis, but this is just a euphemism for Wahhabis, members of the intolerant and rigid form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. A very small number of Sunnis have affiliated with al-Qaeda, but they have had the important battlefield victories in the north.

10. Independent Syria suffered from a series of military coups. The March, 1949 coup of Husni al-Za`im may have been encouraged behind the scenes by the Truman administration because his predecessor had objected to an oil pipeline that was to go through Syrian territory. In 1958-1961, Syria was joined with Egypt in the United Arab Republic. In 1963 officers of the Arab nationalist Baath (Resurrection) Party, which claimed to be socialist, made a coup. The Baath is still in power in Syria. In 1970 Air Force general Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite, made an internal coup, and in 2000 he was succeeded by his second son Bashar, an opthalmologist trained in England. The Baath is a brutal one-party state characterized by a secret police that intensively spies on the population and punishes dissent with arbitrary arrest and torture. It raised standards of living and brought the country from being overwhelmingly rural farmers to having a slight urban majority.

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