Archive | December, 2017

Will Roy Moore Win the Alabama Senate Race?

By Clare Foran

In Tuesday’s Alabama Senate race, no one knows who will come out on top—and that’s unusual in a reliably conservative state.

Thanks to a strange set of circumstances, the special election to fill the Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become a competitive race. Republican Roy Moore had been viewed as a strong favorite, but that changed when multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers.

The allegations, which Moore denies, have shaken up the race and given Democrat Doug Jones a shot at winning, though Moore maintains a slight edge in polling averages. Pundits and pollsters now deem the Alabama special election “impossible to predict.”

Special elections that take place in a year when midterms aren’t held are difficult to poll under any circumstances. It’s hard for pollsters to predict exactly who will show up to vote when they can’t turn to past turnout data in comparable election cycles. The controversy that has engulfed the Alabama senate election as a result of the allegations against Moore adds even more volatility to the race.

“This race has almost every factor that makes polling tricky,” said Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster and co-host of “The Pollsters” podcast. “We don’t know what the electorate is going to be, and you have people trying different methodologies to try to figure out out. Some may prove to be better than others.”

In the final days of the race, the polls have been all over the place. A Fox News poll reported that Jones had a ten-point lead among likely Alabama voters, while an Emerson College poll showed Moore with a nine-point lead over Jones. Fox News polled voters via both landlines and cell phones, while Emerson College’s poll relied on landlines and an online panel. Individuals …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Wisconsin’s Welfare Overhaul Is Almost Complete

By Vann R. Newkirk II

If Scott Walker has his way, poor people in Wisconsin will have to undergo drug testing, one way or another.

Last week, the Republican governor forged ahead with a plan to require testing for some recipients of the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps. That measure would come on top of another proposal to test Wisconsin’s Medicaid enrollees, which is pending federal approval, as well as a law already on the books requiring drug screening and testing for non-custodial parents receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds. If both of Walker’s proposals pass federal scrutiny, it’ll mean all three of the major welfare programs in the state will have drug-testing components.

The move to add drug testing to SNAP is another gambit in Walker’s ongoing effort to overhaul welfare, which has included a host of reforms over the past three years. The change would affect recipients who participate in its Employment and Training Program. Through ETP, able-bodied, childless adults already have to meet work requirements in order to qualify for food stamps. Under the proposed regulation, those who test positive would be required to undergo treatment—on the state’s dime, if they can’t afford it—or face losing their benefits. The Walker administration has also sought to add work requirements and a time limit on benefits to Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, and it wants to extend the SNAP work requirements to parents.

It’s far from certain whether the latest reforms from Walker will pass federal muster. Under former President Barack Obama’s administration, Walker’s requests to implement drug testing in SNAP were denied or held up by the Department of Agriculture under the rationale that they constituted an additional eligibility barrier that Wisconsin wasn’t entitled to impose. While the state disagreed …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Another Failed ISIS Attack

By Graeme Wood

The alleged bomber of the New York subway was inspired by the 2016 ISIS attack on the Berlin Christmas market, in which a Tunisian man drove a truck into a crowd and killed 12 people, according to a New York Times report. Akayed Ullah of Brooklyn saw Christmas posters in the underground corridor connecting the Port Authority Bus Terminal to the Times Square subway lines, and these set him off (or rather, inspired him to set himself off, with a pipe-bomb velcroed to his torso). The bomb—which used a broken Christmas-tree bulb as a detonator—killed no one, and footage of the aftermath suggests that its main effect was to char his midsection.

It would be foolish, I think, to make too much of the interreligious aspects of ISIS’s target selection. ISIS hates Christians less than it hates most non-ISIS Muslims, and the things it hates about Christmas are hardly the the aspects of the holiday that find expression in advertisements in the Port Authority, which are more likely to be selling Rockettes tickets than to be stressing the corporeality of a triune God. Yes, ISIS hates Christmas. But they hate everything else Americans do, too.

Once again, what deserves note is the incompetence of the attack. ISIS has issued simple instructions for mass murder, and most of those who have heeded its call have been too stupid to follow even the idiot-proof terror tactics it suggested. These are people who, if they bought a shelf from IKEA, would somehow sever both thumbs in the process of failing to assemble it. Most ISIS overseas attackers are like this. The small minority of competent ones account for nearly all the total deaths.

Akayed Ullah (his surname means “God,” so it seems blasphemous to call him by it, even on …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Lemon Aid

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

Officials said three people were injured after a man attempted to set off a pipe bomb in the New York City subway system. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called for President Trump to resign, citing the multiple accusations of sexual harassment and assault against him. CNN accused Trump of online bullying after he tweeted that anchor Don Lemon is the “dumbest man on television.” The Pentagon will comply with a court order allowing transgender people to enlist in the military on January 1, despite Trump’s order barring them from serving. In a robo call, former President Barack Obama encouraged Alabamians to vote for Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the state’s special election on Tuesday.

Today on The Atlantic

  • ‘What Putin Really Wants’: In our January cover story, Julia Ioffe writes that Americans overestimate the Russian president’s cunning: “What makes Putin effective, what makes him dangerous, is not strategic brilliance but a tactical flexibility and adaptability—a willingness to experiment, to disrupt, and to take big risks.”

  • In Hiding?: As the Alabama special election approaches, Democratic candidate Doug Jones has held numerous campaign events and press conferences. Republican Roy Moore, on the other hand, has all but disappeared. (Rosie Gray)

  • ‘Who Broke the Economy?’: A new book argues that the rich and powerful are taking advantage of government regulations to benefit themselves—resulting in greater inequality. (Annie Lowrey)

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Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Lemon Aid” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



The Partisan, Nihilist Case Against Robert Mueller

By David A. Graham

If you’re not a regular consumer of pro-Trump media outlets, it could be easy to underestimate or overlook the recent onslaught of attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There are a couple reasons for that. One is that this discourse exists almost entirely within that media ecosystem (which is distinct from, though overlapping with, the broader world of conservative media). The other is that critics have been calling for Mueller’s dismissal and an end to his probe since it was announced. Nonetheless, the intensity of the recent spree is notable, as is the gradual shift from ostensibly politically neutral critiques to openly partisan ones.

“Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Fox News. The channel’s legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said Mueller was employing the FBI “just like the old KGB,” which Sean Hannity piously told viewers was “not hyperbole.” Using chilling language, Fox host Jeanine Pirro said, “There is a cleansing needed at the FBI and Department of Justice. It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but need to be taken out in handcuffs.”

Pirro is, not for the first time, moving way too fast. What all of these denunciations lack is any concrete instance of wrongdoing by a member of Mueller’s team, much less Mueller himself. They have seized on the case of FBI agent Peter Strzok, who apparently wrote some text messages critical of Trump to a girlfriend, but who, as I wrote last week, was immediately reassigned from Mueller’s team when Mueller learned of the texts, and about whom there is as yet no proof of wrongdoing. But the path from Mueller’s appointment to the current critiques bears close examination.

When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



How Russia Hacked America—And Why It Will Happen Again

By Caitlin Cadieux

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian hackers attacked the U.S. on two fronts: the psychological and the technical. Hackers used classic propaganda techniques to influence American voters, bought thousands of social media ads to propagate fake news, and broke into Democratic party email servers to steal information.

And it won’t be the last time. Russian-backed psychological cyber warfare will only get better, and its methods more sophisticated.

…read more

Via:: The Atlantic



As Mueller Closes in on Trump, the Right Pushes Back: Will He Be Fired?

 Special counsel Robert Mueller (left) arrives at the U.S. Capitol for closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee meets with Mueller to discuss the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Special counsel Robert Mueller arrives at the US Capitol for closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017, in Washington, DC. The committee meets with Mueller to discuss the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., appeared on CNN on Sunday and laid out the state of the investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign in stark, simple terms:

It is. I would also add, as I wrote last week, that numerous members of the Trump transition team apparently knew that Michael Flynn told the Russian ambassador to tell his government not to react to the sanctions the Obama administration had just imposed upon them. That’s damning too. The Russians were essentially told, “Don’t worry, we’ll make sure you aren’t punished for helping us win the presidency.”

Whether laws were broken, beyond the charges filed so far against four top Trump advisers, we don’t yet know. But it’s clear that special counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing leads in a number of directions, from possible financial crimes to obstruction of justice to conspiracy. With former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying and agreeing to cooperate, this investigation has moved beyond the campaign to the transition and the White House. It’s very serious.

And as anyone could have predicted, it was inevitable that the president’s supporters in the media and the Republican Party would start to push back and try to delegitimize the investigation …read more

Via:: Truthout



Trump Takes a Stand for Corruption — by Withdrawing the US From Anti-Corruption Pact

The degree of corruption displayed by the Trump administration is on a scale that is hard to keep track of, and hits so close to home that we often forget about the wider global implications of having an incompetent, at best, and more likely a traitorous “president”. As many of us have realized since Day 1, the antics of the Distractor-in-Chief have served as excellent cover for his real agenda: covertly implementing pro-corporate policies.

In this vein, another international issue that flew under the radar recently was the withdrawal of the US last month from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as an implementing country. Through President Barack Obama, the US joined the “Anti-Corruption Pact,” as it has been called, in 2011.

Now, Trump’s hasty decision to pull out sends an unmistakable signal: corruption is tolerated if it helps line corporate pockets. According to Trump and lots of Republicans, anything regulating business is bad, even transparency. But the reality is that removing the US from EITI benefits no one.

Launched in 2002 by then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, EITI helps address the systemic corruption in countries whose GDP relies primarily on resource extraction. More than 52 countries across the world have joined the pact, which imposes international standards on business transparency so as to hinder illicit payments such as bribes or other forms of corruption. The basic idea of the Anti-Corruption Pact is simple: if extractive firms and corporations are forced to publicly disclose their contributions to government, then citizens can hold them accountable. The agreement is designed to help …read more

Via:: Truthout



The Myth of Vladimir Putin the Puppet Master

By Julia Ioffe

I. The Hack

The large, sunny room at Volgograd State University smelled like its contents: 45 college students, all but one of them male, hunched over keyboards, whispering and quietly clacking away among empty cans of Juicy energy drink. “It looks like they’re just picking at their screens, but the battle is intense,” Victor Minin said as we sat watching them.

To hear more feature stories, This is Putin’s carefully cultivated image at home: the phlegmatic leader who hovers coolly above the fray as it churns on beneath him. But in the past year or so, the fray has given him reason to worry.

On a chilly afternoon this spring, I watched college students standing on the steps of a nondescript building off Volgograd’s central square, waiting to meet with Alexey Navalny. The opposition leader and anti-corruption crusader has captured the imagination of many young Russians, as well as that of Westerners who see him as a potential rival of, or even replacement for, Putin. Navalny has declared that he is running for president in the upcoming election.

Police had blocked off the street in front of the building, which housed Navalny’s local campaign office. They stood groggily watching as Cossacks, members of a southern Russian tribe who have historically acted as the state’s vigilante enforcers, strolled up and down the block, casually swinging their black-leather whips. Angry-looking young men in track pants and sneakers—the other fists-for-hire preferred by the Kremlin—paced around the students, eyeing them menacingly. Young women in vertiginous heels—plainclothes cops—milled around. Every few minutes, they took out identical camcorders tagged with numbered yellow stickers and filmed the students standing on the steps, zooming in on their faces.

Navalny had recently been attacked by progovernment thugs who splashed …read more

Via:: The Atlantic