Daily Archives: May 21, 2020

Could the ‘liberal’ Dutch have learned from Taiwan’s approach to coronavirus? – The Guardian

Posted: May 21, 2020 at 6:50 am

The whole world has been struggling to contain the coronavirus and flatten the curve, but Taiwan has had no curve. Out of a population of 24 million, only 440 people have tested positive for Covid-19, and there have been just seven deaths. Compare that with the Netherlands: while it is similar in size to Taiwan with a population of 17 million, well over 5,000 lives have been lost to the virus.

What has made the difference? Clearly, the Netherlands is not an island that could cut itself off from the rest of world, lock down completely and thus contain the disease. Taiwan is but Taiwan didnt do that either.

Public spaces in Taiwan, restaurants, shops and schools, have all remained open since the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan. Life in Taiwan has continued pretty much the same as before. What Taiwan did however, was opt for a complex tradeoff involving virus containment strategies and information gathering, while balancing individual autonomy with trust and control.

But lets first consider the Dutch situation. As Covid-19 hit the Netherlands in March 2020, the public was simply advised to restrict travelling to and from affected areas. When the crisis rapidly worsened, almost all subsequent efforts were directed at minimising the spread of the disease and reducing the influx of patients into hospitals.

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, appeared on television and said that as he trusted citizens to behave responsibly, it would suffice to request that people remained at home as much as possible, observed the 1.5-metre distance protocol, and self-quarantined or self-isolated when feeling unwell. Since no mass testing for Covid-19 took place, the number of infected people and information about who they were or where they had been was anybodys guess.

To minimise transmission of the virus, schools, offices, restaurants and bars were closed. Work that could not be contactless was suspended, and all public gatherings were cancelled. But no complete lockdown, as in Italy or Spain, was deemed necessary. This was seen as too much of an invasion of our Dutch privacy. When the day-to-day numbers of Covid-19 deaths started to drop below 100 per day, it was considered a vindication of the policy of intelligent lockdown.

Taiwans decisions have been partly motivated by its lack of trust in the information shared by China and by Taiwans exclusion from the World Health Organisation at Chinas insistence. These factors have required it to be self-contained and to insist, within a democratic framework, on a policy of maximum health information transparency, both with and from the Taiwanese population. Taiwans history and culture means there is a strong emphasis on the collective over the individual. But its longstanding experience with epidemics such as Sars in 2003, and bird flu in 2013 have also been influential in shaping the response.

From the outset, Taiwans president, Tsai Ing-wen, took aggressive steps to prevent a possible epidemic, such as a travel ban on visitors from China and other epidemic regions (Europes travel bans came much later).

Taiwans approach relies essentially, however, not on its citizens anonymous individual responsibility, but on a completely transparent form of supervised self-discipline. And although the Taiwanese measures are considerably more intrusive, paradoxically, they result in a remarkably liberal policy.

A centralised epidemic command centre (the CECC) was quickly activated to provide immediate information, including detailed surveillance of the movements of infected people.

If anyone reports to a hospital with Covid-19 symptoms, the hospital is obliged to report to the CECC, which then traces the patients recent whereabouts and draws up an anonymised footprint for them in public spaces, such as supermarkets or restaurants. Mobile phone service companies are asked to send out text warnings to anyone else who may have been in these spaces at the time. A typical message reads:

Epidemic Alert. You have been in the proximity of an infected person. Please maintain self-health management, keep to social distancing rules, wear a mask in public and wash hands regularly. If you have any physical complaints, please contact your local healthcare provider.

All this is done on the basis of confidentiality; the infected person is never identified.

Taiwan has also introduced an electronic fence system. This allows local authorities to monitor the whereabouts of a quarantined person. It uses mobile phone signals to detect if an individual leaves their designated quarantine area; if they do, the authorities are immediately notified.

While Taiwanese citizens are aware that intensive monitoring involves an invasion of their privacy, the vast majority acquiesce in the use of personal data and are willing to comply with government regulations. Equally, mask-wearing in Taiwan has become a cultural norm. It is considered a moral virtue to protect others from ones own infection, so as to break the chain, for the benefit of all.

So could a country like the Netherlands have learned from the Taiwanese approach? The Dutch government contemplated the voluntary use of a coronavirus tracking app to alert a user if they had been in contact with a confirmed case, but dismissed it after a national debate about privacy and security. Meanwhile, Rutte and his cabinet have started to implement a four-month plan to relax restrictions.

A key difference, though, is that the western emphasis on autonomy and liberal values, so solidly rooted in Dutch culture, assigns responsibility for the collective health of a nation to the individual, whose behaviour is neither especially informed nor monitored. Ironically, Dutch residents have paid for this unsupervised self-governance with heavy restrictions on their right to free movement, considerable uncertainty and a high death toll. In contrast, Taiwan has demanded more monitoring and compliance of its people, but the result is a healthier population, greater certainty, and ultimately more liberty.

Cha-Hsuan Liu is a lecturer in social policy and public health at Utrecht University; Jaap Bos is associate professor at the department of interdisciplinary social science at Utrecht University

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Could the 'liberal' Dutch have learned from Taiwan's approach to coronavirus? - The Guardian

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The Pandemic Has Pushed Biden to the Left. How Far Will He Go? – FiveThirtyEight

Posted: at 6:50 am

Six weeks ago, when Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race, it seemed like the Democratic Partys left wing suffered a major and potentially long-lasting defeat. Not only had Sanders lost, but former Vice President Joe Biden had won while casting many left-wing ideas as both unrealistic and detrimental to Democrats chances of winning elections.

But if Biden is elected in November, the left may get a presidency it likes after all or at least one it hates less than anticipated. The coronavirus outbreak and the resulting massive surge in unemployment has moved American political discourse to the left: Ideas that would have been considered too liberal for most Democrats a few months ago are now being proposed by Republicans. And if American politics is moving left, expect Biden to do the same. Biden was often cast as a centrist or a moderate during the Democratic primaries, but those labels dont really describe his politics that well he doesnt really seem to have any kind of set ideology at all.

Instead, Bidens long record in public office suggests that he is fairly flexible on policy shifting his positions to whatever is in the mainstream of the Democratic Party at a given moment. So if Biden wins the presidency and his fellow Democrats are still clamoring for more government spending to help the pandemic recovery, Biden is likely to be a fairly liberal president, no matter how moderate he sounded in the primaries.

Biden is a centrist in a certain way he has historically positioned himself in the center of the Democratic Party, between the partys most liberal and most conservative members. (And he does that positioning generally on foreign policy, economics and social issues.) The center of the party is a moving target of course.

The best way to understand Biden is as a reflection or reaction to the partys main planks throughout the last 40 years, rather than leading or shaping it, said Lily Geismer, a history professor at Claremont McKenna College who has written extensively about the Democratic Party and liberalism. I dont see Biden as embodying any of the ideological terms or positions of centrist or liberal, certainly not center-left and not really neoliberal either. Instead I see his ideology as first and foremost a Democrat. He has throughout his career toed the party line rather than an ideological one.

Serving in the Senate from 1973-2009, Biden was always more liberal than at least 44 percent of his Democratic colleagues but always less liberal than at least 43 percent of his colleagues, according to DW-Nominate scores of his Senate votes. Put another way, he ranged between the 44th and 57th percentile in terms of liberalism among Democratic senators in his Senate years smack dab in the middle of the party.

Liberal Democrats have been sharply critical of some of Bidens votes in the Senate, mostly notably his support for the 1994 anti-crime bill that increased penalties for some offenses and the 2002 resolution to authorize war with Iraq. But on both issues, Biden was within the Democratic Party consensus at the time. Nearly all Senate Democrats (54 of 56) backed the crime bill, as did 188 of the 252 House Democrats who voted on the measure, which was signed into law by a Democratic president (Bill Clinton). A majority of House Democrats (126 of 207) opposed the Iraq War resolution, but the majority of Bidens Senate Democratic colleagues were in favor of it (28 of 49).

Bidens tenure as vice president also suggests that he would govern from the middle of the Democratic Party. There is not a clear record akin to Senate roll call votes of the positions Biden took in internal policy debates within the Obama administration. And the role of a vice president essentially requires him to publicly praise whatever decision the president ultimately makes. But Biden has described himself as an Obama Democrat and strongly defended the administrations record. And while Obama himself and the Obama administration are somewhat hard to categorize ideologically, the former president and his team generally took approaches that did not satisfy the most liberal elements of the party but were fairly liberal.

When Biden did publicly separate himself from the Obama administration, it was to stake out a position that was within the Democratic mainstream. Take Bidens announcement in 2012 that he supported same-sex marriages though Obama had not yet come out publicly for legalizing same-sex unions, the majority of Democratic voters already held this position. And Biden also supported the Obamas administration push for more lenient criminal justice policies, even as Sen. Biden had been a key figure in the Democrats tough on crime posture in the 1980s and 1990s.

That willingness to change with the times was also evident in Bidens 2020 primary platform. Biden adopted fairly liberal policies not as liberal as those of Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but more liberal than his pre-campaign record suggested. The Democratic Party is more liberal now than it was when Bill Clinton took office, or even when Obama was inaugurated, and Bidens platform reflects that shift. Some of Bidens 2020 policy proposals are notably to the left of the Obama administrations stances when it left office in early 2017, including Bidens support for the abolition of the death penalty, halting nearly all deportations of undocumented immigrants in his first 100 days as president and free four-year college for Americans in households with incomes up to $125,000 a year.

Its hard to measure the precise center of American politics and how it has changed over the last few months. But its certainly moved left in response to the COVID-19 crisis toward way more federal spending. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican, recently proposed using federal dollars to temporarily boost the pay of grocery store clerks and others in essential jobs by $12 per hour. Republicans in Congress supported a $2 trillion economic stimulus provision, which gave many Americans a one-time payment of $1,200 and boosted unemployment benefits by $600 per week. More moderate House Democrats, usually wary of being cast as too liberal, backed the $2 trillion bill and a subsequent $3 trillion economic stimulus bill .

Mirroring the shift in his party, Biden and his advisers are now reimagining his candidacy and presidency rolling out more liberal policy plans, speaking in increasingly populist terms and joining forces with the most progressive voices in the party. Biden himself has invoked the idea that he might be entering the Oval Office facing a crisis on the scale of the Great Depression.

He recently told Politico that he supported a stimulus that was a hell of a lot bigger than the $2 trillion provision passed in March and that he was annoyed with Wall Street firms because this is the second time weve bailed their asses out. The former vice president is also reportedly considering Warren as a potential running mate more seriously than before because of her experience on economic issues. Last week, he appointed some of the partys most prominent liberal figures, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, to a team advising him on policy.

What Ive heard the vice president say over and over again is this crisis is shining a bright, bright light on so many systemic problems in our country, and so many inequities. It is exacerbating and shining a light on environmental-justice issues, racial inequalities, so many other problems, Stef Feldman, a top Biden policy adviser, recently told New York magazine.

It seems clear that Biden gets the seriousness of the moment and the need to change directions in an American economy that was systemically unfair even before it was broken to pieces by a pandemic, said Jeff Hauser of the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank whose proposals are generally more in line with Sanders and Warren than Biden.

We should note three important caveats here. First, some of these shifts leftward from Biden are probably best explained by his need to woo Sanderss supporters, rather than as a response to COVID-19. Sanders handily won very liberal voters and voters under the age of 45 during the Democratic primary and Biden probably wants those two blocs to be enthusiastically behind him in the general election. Its likely that Biden, for example, would have tried to appeal to Ocasio-Cortez in some way even if the coronavirus outbreak had never happened.

Secondly, its not clear how notable or long-lasting these shifts are. You could argue that Biden is calling for a bigger federal response to a massive pandemic and elevated unemployment levels, and that this leftward shift isnt particularly striking. And since the former vice president often calibrates his views to match the current consensus, you could see him backtracking from his newfound liberalism when the crisis recedes and/or if polls start showing a majority of Americans are leery of more government intervention to help with the COVID-19 recovery. Those are two fairly unlikely scenarios right now, but at some point more moderate Democrats might shift away from supporting more federal spending in the wake of the coronavirus. If a big bloc of Democrats shifted right, I would expect Biden to follow suit.

Thirdly, Bidens leftward shifts will likely be constrained by both his own instincts and those of his top advisers. Both Biden and his inner circle are perpetually worried that the Democrats will move too far left on policy issues and scare off swing voters. Some of his top advisers, electoral politics aside, are just somewhat centrist and wary of liberal ideas. Biden himself seems deeply invested in the idea that he can cut deals with Republicans and tamp down the partisan divide in Washington, a vision that is probably in tension with a more leftish presidency.

Does he stay on the 50-yard line, splitting the difference between anti-government conservatism and progressive populism, and cutting bipartisan deals, David Dayen of the left-leaning The American Prospect wrote recently. Or does he surge toward the end zone with Roosevelt written on it, transforming the nation through bold, persistent experimentation that fills in all the cracks the coronavirus exposed?

Joe Biden is running on the most progressive platform of any Democratic nominee in recent history. But given the pandemic, he has to look at the New Deal and Great Society traditions in the Democratic Party and go bigger, said Waleed Shahid, the communications director for Justice Democrats, a left-wing group aligned with Ocasio-Cortez and other very progressive Democrats.

All that said, it seems fairly likely that Biden, if he wins, will enter the Oval Office with Americans struggling through a recession and the public and his party clamoring for the federal government to do more to help those who are struggling. In that scenario, we might look back at how Biden won the Democratic primary by emphasizing his moderation and marvel that he became the most liberal president in recent history.

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The Pandemic Has Pushed Biden to the Left. How Far Will He Go? - FiveThirtyEight

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China is not just a challenge to the liberal World Order, but an existential threat to humanity – WION

Posted: at 6:50 am

Usually, Australian newspapers are hardly read in India. However, recently, the Australian portal The Daily Telegraphs article, in a befitting reply to the Chinese Consul Generals letter alleging it of ignorance, prejudice, and arrogance, in its reports and opinions on Chinas response to Covid-19, went viral in Indian social media circles. It unleashed debates on the post-corona world order among the Indian intellectuals generally obsessed with Pakistan and its jihadist wars in India. It seemed as if the article awakened the usually insular Indian masses from their civilizational slumber and got them seriously thinking about the threat posed by China to the rules-based world order.

The western world got its taste of the world order with the Chinese Characteristics only in the recent past as they came to know of the horrors of Xinjiangs vocational training centers, muscle-flexing by Chinese Navy in the South China Sea, and Chinas unfair trade practices. However, India tasted the bitter pill in 1962 only, when Maos China backstabbed Indias statesman-philosopher PM Nehru, hell-bent on harnessing the strengths of Indo-Chinese civilizational ties, by starting a war in Himalayan peaks that not only brought Indias growing global stature to a grinding halt, but also shattered Nehru from within, ultimately leading to his untimely demise, leaving Indias nascent democracy leaderless.

China and Corona have shaken our notions of stability and made us all apprehensive and fearful of the world order with the so-called Chinese characteristics. The world communitys faith in Chinas intentions, institutions, innovations, inventions, and investments has shattered almost beyond redemption. World leaders have raised the pitch in favour of finding new alternatives to reduce the economic dependence on China and new alliances to protect the rules-based order against the depredations of revanchist China. However, the current state of frenzy and panic may mislead even the sanest minds and lead us to blame the country China and its people for all the mayhem.

However, anyone with primary exposure to Asian history will understand that not China and its people, but Chinas Communist Party (CCP) is an existential threat to rules-based world order, standing firmly on the twin pillars of liberal democracy and free and fair trade. Any systematic thought about deterring China has to begin with differentiating between China and the Chinese Communist Party, the two entities primarily at ideological and foundational crossroads. Hence, we must all refrain from any frenzied racial outburst against China as a country, and its people as it is likely to play into the hands of CCP, giving it a powerful weapon to mobilize popular support by rousing nationalist sentiments.

At the most fundamental level, the CCP has devastated Chinas great civilizational legacy and ethos. The great Chinese civilization derives its vibrancy and soul from the spiritual legacy of the Buddhist and Confucious thought, preaching peace, a quest for spiritual purity, love, and respect for contrary thoughts and belief-systems. Despite its lofty claims to restore Chinas rightful place in the world, CCPs totalitarianism and extremism, in essence, is a complete undoing of all the paramount values Chinas glorious civilization stands for. Not long ago, CCPs Mao-led party-state massacred Buddhists and decimated their monasteries in Tibet, and implemented the great leap forward, leading to the death of tens of millions of its people in the devastating famines that followed it. Later, insecurities emanating from the fears of a popular revolt against his authority due to the devastating famines, Mao brought cultural revolution to get rid of all the bourgeoisie elements. However, in effect, the despot wanted to silence all the dissidents and critiques, leading the purges of millions of his ideological opponents. And, with them, Chinas break with its spiritual and cultural refinements of Buddhist-Confucious past was complete. Today, CCPs mind-games with complex jargons like whole-process democracy and benevolent rule, which it also calls democracy with Chinese characteristics, are simply to counter the western challenge to its dictatorial political system by orchestrating ideological foundations to prove its political system, superior to the western one. However, such expressions are mere outer trappings to protect a corrupt political system and governance model existing under fragile foundations and a perpetual threat of popular revolt, for being inherently anti- Chinese.

CCPs world order stands for forced disappearances and displacements, politically-motivated purges, persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, fake news and disinformation campaigns, supporting despots and rogue states, and encouraging their nuclear blackmail, and shielding UN-designated terrorists and terror-sponsoring nations at the UN bodies, and crushing human rights. Its economic aggression strategy includes theft of trade secrets and intellectual property, unfair trade practices hindering the access of foreign companies to Chinese markets, and forced technology transfers.

At home, CCP has created the most intrusive public monitoring and Orwellian high-tech surveillance state. With the state-controlled media, rigid internet censorships, face recognition technology, and draconian restrictions on a free debate on religious and political issues in the Universities, the CCP silences public criticism and maintains a firm grip on the information flow in China. It has prevented the exposure of Chinese society to all outside influences by denying access to foreign intellectuals, media persons, and independent observers from the UN bodies and global NGOs. The respect for privacy is anathema for CCP. Not long ago, CCPs repressive state machinery massacred thousands of students demanding democracy in Tiennman square. In Xinjiang province, home to around 13 million Muslims of Turkic, Uyghur and Kazakh ethnicities, CCP runs the most sophisticated and high-tech detainment camps, in the name of vocational education centers, where the inmates are subjected to rigorous indoctrination to rid them of all Islamic influences. CCP treats Islam like a mental illness. Those observing fundamental Islamic practices such as Namaz, Rozas, and beards find themselves in the detainment camps.

CCPs hatred for democracy and human rights does not stop at its frontiers. In the last few years, CCP has brazenly extended its vision of anti-human rights and anti-democratic political and governance model beyond its borders. Chinas party-state uses its economic clout to silence all those entities, including companies, countries, individuals, NGOs, and academic institutions, who criticize its human rights record. OIC countries, usually vocal about the Muslim causes across the globe, conveniently turned a blind eye to Xinjiang and applauded Chinas counter-terrorism measures that have led to a stronger sense of fulfilment, happiness, and security. Hence, what happens in Xinjiang, stays in Xinjiang, thanks to the overriding economic interests of OIC nations. Major BRI-recipient Pakistans PM Imran Khan often frets and fumes on twitter over sporadic incidents of Islamophobia in India. However, he preferred to keep silent over Xinjiang, while his diplomats lauded China for providing care to its Muslim citizens, thanks to Chinas no-strings grants and diplomatic support.

Chinese business organizations can hardly dare to ignore the dictates of CCP. When Houston Rockets General Manager displeased the Chinese government by supporting Hongkong protesters on social media, all of the 11 official Chinese business partners of the National Basketball Association suspended ties with the league. Similarly, the sheer number of Chinese students and on Western campuses and large research grants are powerful enough to dissuade them from displeasing China by allowing debates and seminars on Chinas human rights abuses and repression, with the participation of Chinese dissidents. Recently, a powerful person in the Harvard management stopped Teng Biao, a Chinese dissident and a visiting fellow at Harvard Universit, from holding an event on his and other dissidents experiences of human rights abuses in China.

CCPs state is selling high-tech surveillance technology to 60 states with weak privacy protections, including dictatorships such as Zimbabwe, Philippines, and Kyrgyzstan. China also intimidates UN member countries to support its position in international bodies. At UNHRC, China has been consistent in obstructing the passage of UN resolutions and sanctions against its cohorts like Venezuela, Myanmar, and Saudi Arabia, for gross human rights violations.

In its BRI ambit, China is supporting corrupt and ruthless dictators with no-strings-attached loans, in complete disregard for their track-record of environmental safety and human rights abuses. Such dubious and clandestine loans also come easy in return for the recipient countrys support and silence over Chinas repression and Human Rights violations. China has invested 62 billion dollars in CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), a part of BRI, Chinas multi-trillion dollar infrastructure project. Its terror-sponsoring ally Pakistan has displaced the local Shia Muslims in PoJK (Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan), opposing Chinese investments and encroachment of their lands. In one of the most shameless attempts at demographic engineering, they have colonized the area with Wahhabi extremists, Pak army veterans, and terrorist cadres, quite expectedly, China has been a supporting accomplice in such heinous crimes against humanity. Those who oppose are silenced through a plethora of ISIs (Pakistans dreadful spy agency), covert measures including tortures and targeted killings. At the UNSC and FATF, in addition to supporting dreaded terrorists like Hafiz Saed and Masood Azhar, China has shielded Pakistan with impunity, preventing the global bodies action against it for financing and sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir. Further, Chinese loans have sent many countries into a never-ending debt trap.

Its time to confront China

Until the last year, the strategists were concerned about the Chinese threat to the world order. However, after COVID-19 killing thousands across the globe, CCP has revealed itself as not merely a threat to the world order. Instead, in its new or real avatar, it comes out as an existential threat to the entire humanity. As I am writing this piece, China has already found a berth at UNHRC despite its blemished human rights record, aggressed in the Sikkims (India) Naku La, and intruded with its coastguard into the waters of Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands.

Further, the way CCPs party-state has spread disinformation about the origin of the virus, manipulated WHO, influenced or maybe coerced prestigious media houses and influential think-tanks to project it as a savior in its corona-mitigation efforts, vehemently resisted an independent investigation into the origins of the virus, threatened Australia with trade sanctions for advocating an inquiry into the virus origins, and intimidated the EUs external action service to drop the reference to its global disinformation campaign to improve its image, in its report, hardly leaves any doubt about CCPs future intent to upset the world order and methods it will employ to achieve that.

With Xi Jinpings eternal presidency, the CCP has gone back to the era of Mao-styled strong man rule. This time it commands robust economic strength, state-of-the-art technology in communications and defense, and a revanchist desire; hence, the tremors are spreading across the globe. Corona is just a glimpse into what lies ahead. Also, China braces the worlds fastest declining population, corona crisis and economic slowdown, which will result in job losses and a fall in the standards of living. It will result in public protest and outrage against the government, demanding more political participation. Most likely, Xi-led CCP will double down with more repression, censorships, purges, and a hyper-nationalist foreign policy. In the international arena, it may result in China firming up its ties with despots and terror-sponsoring nations by giving them nuclear technology, aggressive incursions in the South China Sea, and brazen subversion of international conventions, treaties, and institutions.

Hence, it is time to confront CCP. Moreover, the confrontation has to be holistic. From a principled stand against its human rights abuses and strategically thought-out efforts countering its economic and military aggression to a systematic campaign exposing CCP and its inhuman side, the world community has to deter CCP on every front. It has to be a united effort. With Americans in a self-imposed diplomatic quarantine mode, Australia, Japan and India have a lot to contribute, in saving China and the rest of the world, from a revanchist regime that refuses to respect life and play by the rules.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

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China is not just a challenge to the liberal World Order, but an existential threat to humanity - WION

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Liberals embrace super PACs they once shunned | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: at 6:50 am

Progressives are embracing super PACs with newfound vigor as they look to put their political influence and organizing tactics to use in the aftermath of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: National Latino support for Biden sees slight increase Trump congratulates daughter on law school graduation: 'Just what I need is a lawyer in the family' Mellman: Just how important are the issues? MOREs (I-Vt.) presidential campaign.

A handful of new liberal outside groups have cropped up in recent weeks, many of them founded by former aides and allies of Sanders and other prominent progressives. Their goals range from boosting the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump takes pandemic fight to Michigan MSNBC political analyst Karine Jean-Pierre joins Biden campaign Poll: Older voters slip from Trump; younger voters turn away from Biden MORE to patching what they see as electoral holes in the Democrats organizing strategy.

But the proliferation of super PACs has come at a cost for some in the progressive movement, which has long denounced the existence of such groups and the influence of money in politics.

Sanders himself has privately expressed frustration with one such super PAC, originally called Future to Believe In PAC after the Vermont senators campaign slogan. The group was formed late last month by a handful of former aides to Sanderss campaign, including senior adviser Jeff Weaver, to boost Biden among progressives.

Sanderss displeasure with the formation of the super PAC prompted its founders to change its name this week to Americas Promise PAC to avoid the appearance that it is tied to Sanders or his campaign.

For Weaver and others, the decision to form a super PAC appears to stem more from a sense of urgency than a genuine comfort with such groups, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money so long as they do not coordinate with a candidate or campaign.

In a memo issued on Friday, Weaver warned that lagging support and enthusiasm for Bidens candidacy among progressives has the potential to sink the former vice presidents chances of ousting President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump taps Brooke Rollins as acting domestic policy chief Trump takes pandemic fight to Michigan Trump to celebrate Memorial Day at Baltimore's Fort McHenry MORE in November. Americas Promise PAC, he wrote, could help Biden make up that ground.

[D]espite best intentions, the Biden campaign and the [Democratic National Committee] are far behind on digital organizing, Latino outreach and progressive coalition building all critical to reaching and winning over Sanders supporters, Weaver wrote.

Chuck Rocha, a former senior adviser to Sanders who is involved in Americas Promise PAC and is spearheading the creation of another group, Nuestro PAC, said that super PACs are simply a means to an end: helping Democrats and progressives win up and down the ballot.

Unlike traditional political action committees and political nonprofits, super PACs can act as a partisan hammer, Rocha said, a role that traditional campaigns and PACs cant necessarily fill.

I am anti all this money in politics and if we can operate without super PACs, I would vote for that everyday, Rocha told The Hill. But Ive got to do something right now. I dont have the privilege to be able to wait around until there arent super PACs on either side.

Rocha and his political consulting firm Solidarity Strategies launched Nuestro PAC last month to turn out Latino voters in the fall using the same playbook that helped Sanders win broad support among Latinos during his primary campaign. Rocha himself is currently the largest donor to the super PAC. He said that hes courting other progressive and Democratic-leaning groups to help fund the effort.

Rocha said he wont accept contributions from corporate interests or business executives.

Super PACs arent the problem. The problem is corporate money in super PACs, he said. I dont know any corporations who would give Chuck Rocha or Nuestro Pac any donations anyway.

Still, the move towards super PACs has received blowback from some progressives. Rocha said he has lost thousands of followers on Twitter since started Nuestro PAC last month. And after Americas Promise launched in late April, the grassroots collective The People for Bernie Sanders advised its followers: Dont give them a dime.

One of the basics of the Bernie campaigns was a refusal to go there in terms of anything like a super PAC, Norman Solomon, a longtime activist and the co-founder of the progressive online initiative RootsAction.org.

I think thats in harmony with the politics that if youre opposed to huge money running the political show then you dont take huge money in super PACs.

Solomon is among a group of advisers to the newly-formed Once Again PAC, a traditional political action committee focused on helping Sanders win delegates in upcoming Democratic presidential primaries in order to exert influence over the partys platform and rules at its national convention this summer.

Also involved in that effort is Nina Turner, a former co-chair of Sanderss presidential campaign, and Winnie Wong, a former adviser to Sanders.

While Solomon said that most activists on the left share Bernies detest for super PACs in general, he also emphasized that progressive super PACs are a relatively small part of the terrain, especially given the massive outside groups funded by ultra-wealthy donors that often back Republicans or more centrist Democrats.

Its David vs. Goliath, he said. Even David needed a slingshot and I think thats how some people see it.

Sanderss former aides arent the only ones formingoutside political groups. Earlier this month, Justice Democrats, the progressive groupaligned with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe continuous whipsawing of climate change policy Budowsky: United Democrats and Biden's New Deal Merger moratorium takes center stage in antitrust debate MORE (D-N.Y.), filed paperwork with the Federal Election Committee (FEC) to create a hybrid PAC also called a Carey Committee similar to a super PAC.

Sanders himself has benefited from super PACs in the past. Vote Nurses Values PAC, the super PAC funded by the nurses union National Nurses United, spent more than $700,000 in support of the Vermont senator during the 2020 presidential primaries.

To me, theres a big difference between a labor lobbyist who is an advocate for working people versus a corporate lobbyist for Goldman Sachs or General Electric, said Jonathan Tasini, a progressive strategist and former surrogate for Sanderss 2016 presidential campaign. I sort of see super PACs the same way.

Tasini said that the end goal for Democrats should be to get rid of all this money in the U.S. political system. But he added that progressives should be practical in their approach to super PACs.

I dont think we should be so ideologically rigid about this, he said. Everyone would love to get rid of all this money. But that isnt the reality today.

One of the draws of super PACs in addition to being allowed to raise and spend unlimited sums of money is that they promise political operatives freedom that they often dont get within the rigid and bureaucratic structure of traditional campaigns, said Linh Nguyen, a former presidential campaign staffer for Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOn The Money: GOP senators heed Fed chair's call for more relief | Rollout of new anti-redlining laws spark confusion in banking industry | Nearly half of American households have lost employment income during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Democratic senators call on regulators to investigate potential Uber-Grubhub deal MOREs (D-N.J.) and former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergLiberals embrace super PACs they once shunned .7 billion expected to be spent in 2020 campaign despite coronavirus: report Bloomberg wages war on COVID-19, but will he abandon his war on coal? MORE.

Nguyen and other former campaign staffers filed paperwork with the FEC late last month creating PAC That A$$ (PTA), a super PAC aimed at boosting Democrats up and down the ballot, while aggressively mocking GOP incumbents. The group isnt tied directly to the progressive movement, but is "very much anchored in the idea that we are trying to fix the system," Nguyen said.

In an interview this week, Nguyen said the group isnt only going to be run by political operatives, but is also hiring writers and comedians particularly black and brown creatives with the goal of reaching young voters and communities of color online ahead of the 2020 election.

Our donors that are funding this have specifically said we want you all to try different things, Nguyen said. Experiment and figure out how to break through the noise.

Nguyen said that PTA is built around the notion that super PACs are detrimental to the political process. The groups website touts that if their efforts to get Democrats elected are successful, there wont be any more Super PACs.

We want to fight fire with fire. This is something that Republicans are very, very comfortable in, and as Democrats, we shy away from it or we take the higher road, she said. We want to lean into it. Were going to get a lot of criticism, but we dont want to shy away from it.

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@Home with SF State: Adjusting to Remote Learning | College of Liberal & Creative Arts – SF State News

Posted: at 6:50 am

Lyn Bafour, a Cinema and Chinese major, has used her nightstand as a desk for online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If I just reorient myself on my bed, I feel like thats enough mentally to make the switch of, this is where you sleep versus this is where you work, Bafour said in a new video series exploring how students have adjusted to online learning this semester.

Despite the challenges with taking classes from home, the Trader Joes employee has found a way to prepare herself every day: Wake up, get in the mindset and shake everything off and just start doing the work.

Cinema major Nithin Kumar said keeping his workspace clean and simple has helped him stay on task.

I have my monitor. I have a keyboard. Basically, I have [my workspace] set up for maximum productivity with as little distractions as possible, he said.

Sabrina Mota, a Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts major, said students shouldnt be too hard on themselves, especially during this unprecedented crisis.

Forgive yourself if this isnt going to be your best semester, Mota said. Understand that a lot of people, they take a long time to go through school and they still end up being able to get to their aspirations and make change.

The pandemic and shelter-in-place ordinances have made Bafour value the importance of human interaction more than ever.

Whats going on right now is very isolating, and during the first few days, I was very lifeless. I didnt know what to do with myself, said Bafour, an employee at Trader Joes grocery store. But talking to somebody really did help feel like things are normal and reaffirmed that other people are going through the same thing.

Video produced by Sreang Hok and Kavin Chan

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Liberals vow to resurrect Roe 8 if elected next year – WAtoday

Posted: at 6:50 am

Opposition transport spokeswoman Libby Mettam said the Liberal Party was still committed to Roe 8 and the Perth Freight Link.


If necessary it is a decision we would most certainly reverse and we are comfortable fighting the government on this issue given it has the support of the community of the southern suburbs, she said.

Ms Mettam said WA needed big ticket infrastructure projects to help the state recover from the coronavirus pandemic and with $1.2 billion in federal funding still on the table, now was the time to get it started.

Were finding it is quite extraordinary that 62,000 people have lost their jobs in the past four weeks and the McGowan government would come out with a plan to block Roe 8, she said.

The Perth Freight Link was envisioned to connect Fremantle Port with Perths southern suburbs but it was scrapped after the Labor party won the 2017 election in a landslide with stopping the road as a headline commitment.

The Liberal Party maintains the road would reduce congestion and remove trucks from Leach Highway while future proofing the Fremantle port.

Ms Saffioti said the McGowan government had been given a clear mandate to stop the freight link.

It was a deeply flawed, controversial project that I am pleased has now been laid to rest, she said.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the land that was cleared to make way for the freight link was already being rehabilitated which would ensure the Beeliar Wetlands and its conservation values would remain for future generations.

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P.E.I. Liberals plan to leave collaboration to Green party and governing Conservatives – The Guardian

Posted: at 6:50 am

The Liberal MLAs are set to shift from collaborative players to critical ones.

Sonny Gallant, leader of the Third Party, says the Liberal caucus is withdrawing from direct participation in decision-making and input with the governing Conservatives and Official Opposition Green Party.

Gallant, in an opinion piece penned to The Guardian, states elected members have two primary roles: representing constituents and holding government accountable.

Premier Dennis King has won praise for governing in a strong spirit of collaboration with the Greens and the Liberals since winning a minority government in April 2019.

The three parties had appeared to be working particularly well together over the past three months to find the best approaches to deal with the ongoing pandemic.

Gallant says the province found itself in a "situation we had never been in before'' in March, and the six Liberal MLAs saw the need to work with the other two parties to best address the COVID-19 crisis.

However, he says the Liberal caucus is now stepping out of that rather friendly, cozy relationship. Time now, he adds, to start suggesting ways government can do things differently.

"We just felt as a group and as a team that we change our approach,"he told The Guardian late Wednesday afternoon.

Gallant says the Liberal caucus plans to take on a more direct role in making sure that the province is ready for a potential second wave of COVID-19.

Islanders deserve to know that we have a good stockpile of personal protective equipment,"he states in the opinion piece.

"They also need to see a plan that will deal with the backlog of health care services that has built up and that safe steps are being taken to care for a potential round of patients affected by the virus."

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker says he is disappointed, but not surprised, by the Liberals looking to rock the boat rather than paddle along in unison.

Bevan-Baker suggests the Liberal caucus appears to be returning to the old, more combative way of doing politics.

He believes, though, it is entirely possible to hold government to account while constructively and co-operatively working together to get legislation enacted.

I really feel it is a shame that the Liberals feel that they can no longer contribute to the collaborative model that we have been pioneering here on Prince Edward Island,"says Bevan-Baker.

He says the collaborative approach to P.E.I. politics for more than a full year has been successful in advancing an agenda that benefits all Islanders.

He adds that in the past on P.E.I., the Liberals and Conservatives would simply take turns waiting for their turn to govern.

Bevan-Baker says he does not know the key to the Green party forming the next government under this current atmosphere of collaboration.

"That is a great question, and I wish I knew the answer to that,"he said in a telephone interview with The Guardian Wednesday.

He says he and his fellow Green MLAs are always ready to stand up and offer critical input.

He adds his party will have plenty of opportunity to distinguish itself from the Liberals and Conservatives in the months ahead.

Gallant, meanwhile, raises concern that the Greens will ease up on criticizing government in favour of seeking deals and accommodations that meet their political agenda".

Government House Leader Sidney MacEwen was contacted by The Guardian for this story but did not return the call by deadline.


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Liberals will never acknowledge Trumps successes | Letter – lehighvalleylive.com

Posted: at 6:50 am

'Its astounding how Ron Pizarie (letter, The man with the nuclear launch codes cant tell fact from fiction, May 12) can be so astute in his condemnation of President Trump. Hes like a Monday morning quarterback going over plays that could or should have been done. Its so easy to sit on the sidelines and complain or perceive that you or someone else could do it better.

It doesnt matter what Trump has accomplished in the last three years. Left-wing liberals will never give him any credit for anything, even though he has been right and beneficial for our country. What if Barack Obama or Joe Biden had to deal with this coronavirus pandemic? Where do you think this country would be now? I can only imagine.

If Biden were president, hed have to remember where he was first to be able to handle anything. Then touchy-feely Uncle Joe would have to come out of the basement.

So my advice to the left-wing liberal losers is to get over it. Stop trying to drum up any more costly false accusations and coup de-tats to get rid of Trump. Hes not a politician and that rubs too many people the wrong way.

Most importantly, Trump is someone who loves this country and only wants whats best for America. Give him a chance. Turn right instead of left.

Audrey Cowell

Upper Nazareth Township

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Liberal coalition Win Justice retools strategies for voter turnout – Washington Times

Posted: at 6:50 am

The liberal coalition Win Justice sidelined its usual army of clipboard-wielding activists who swarm neighborhoods to register voters and build a get-out-the-vote database for 2020.

The coronavirus crisis also put a crimp in the plans of political activists and advocacy groups across the political spectrum, with fundraising dried up by the economic lockdown and traditional voter contact strategies stifled by social distancing.

But political activists, by definition, are not easily deterred.

Win Justices network of activists from Planned Parenthood, Service Employees International Union and other left-wing groups this week retooled its voter turnout operation into a $30 million effort emphasizing personalized mail and phone banks.

The Committee to Unleash Prosperitys Stephen Moore said he estimated his income would drop 70% this year because of canceled conferences and speaking engagements, and fewer economic consulting opportunities.

Mr. Moore, a member of President Trumps task force to reopen the economy, said he is poised to weather the economic storm without hardship but he knows others in the policy-advocacy arena are not as fortunate.

The biggest problem for what were doing now frankly is everybodys poorer, Mr. Moore said. I talk to donors and they say I just lost 30% of my money in the stock market.

The inability of activists to put boots on the ground nationwide has affected conservatives and liberals alike. The Club for Growth said it hopes to resurrect its door-knocking campaigns if and when state and local officials allow it.

Club for Growth President David McIntosh said the biggest difference now than before the coronavirus shutdowns is that the group has focused more on digital engagement with its members and its new fellowship program.

Weve held a number of town halls with our friends including Sen. [Ted] Cruz, [pollster] Frank Luntz and more, and weve been getting great feedback, Mr. McIntosh said. We are continuing to be very engaged with TV, cable, and digital ads and mail even with many primaries being pushed into the summer.

Win Justice leaders said they want to do in-person field organizing if it is safe. But in the meantime, they are combining traditional methods with newer digital tools for their campaigns in Florida, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin.

We need to reach the communities who have been targeted and silenced by this administration and the people in power from voters of color to immigrants, to young people, to women, said Planned Parenthoods Jenny Lawson. Enough is enough: While our countrys health care needs continue to rise in the face of a global pandemic, its time for the politicians who attack our health care and our reproductive rights to lose their jobs.

The SEIU said it sees Win Justice as the beginning of its chance to fundamentally alter the American economy.

Workers and communities of color cant afford to return to normal we need to reject the inequality and economic pain that defines COVID but was present long before COVID, said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU international president. Thats what this election is about. Win Justice is the first step toward a better future where we rewrite the rules, rebuild the economy based on workers power, and reinvest in communities.

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NP View: Will these Liberals be willing to do what Chrtien and Martin did? – National Post

Posted: at 6:48 am

A Liberal government will reduce the deficit. We will implement new programs only if they can be funded within existing expenditures. We will exercise unwavering discipline in controlling federal spending . Expenditure reductions will be achieved by cancelling unnecessary programs, streamlining processes and eliminating duplication.

Its hard to imagine the Liberals making such a promise in this day and age, but that is what they pledged to do in their 1993 Red Book. Contrast that to the 2015 election, when the party campaigned on the idea of running $10-billion deficits for three years, for a total of $30 billion a limit they blew through (and it wasnt even close). Or the 2019 election, when it gave up on balancing the books altogether and introduced a plan to run yearly deficits of $20 billion over its four-year mandate.

The coronavirus, however, changes everything. Those deficits now seem like chump change in the face of the Parliamentary Budget Officers (PBO) April 30 forecast of a $252.1-billion deficit in 2020-21 a number that, given the spate of spending announcements since then, he now says is likely to prove very optimistic.

As a percentage of the economy, even the optimistic number would be the highest on record. And that doesnt include the provinces, which have also seen their expenditures balloon. All told, a National Bank Financial report this week estimated that combined federal and provincial deficits could reach a staggering $350 billion, which represents about 20 per cent of gross domestic product.

If theres any good news, its that the massive increase in government spending that weve witnessed since the start of this pandemic will (hopefully) be temporary. Yes, COVID-19 has exposed critical holes in our health-care system, long-term care facilities and supply of critical goods that will require long-term expenditures in order to address. But the vast majority of the spending the financial support for workers who have lost their jobs and companies that have lost their revenue streams can easily come to an end once the health threat subsides.

Thats not to say that it is inevitable, though. We have already heard calls for the government to transform the Canada Emergency Response Benefit into a universal basic income program, for the state to use this crisis as an opportunity to replace fossil fuels with green energy pick your pet cause and chances are that someone is using the coronavirus as an excuse to push it.

But the Liberals must resist these calls, because the fact is that we will not be able to afford any of it. We wont even be able to afford any of the programs, like universal pharmacare, that Parliament was considering at the beginning of the year.

The Liberals justified their deficit spending before the pandemic by citing Canadas relatively good debt-to-GDP ratio, the amount of government debt relative to the size of the economy. Yet the PBO estimates that the national debt will hit $962 billion this year, up from $685 billion in 2018, and could easily top $1 trillion thats a one with 12 zeroes the year after.

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada released a flash estimate last month, which suggested that real GDP shrank nine per cent in March. The PBOs scenario estimates that real GDP will decline by 12 per cent this year, which would be four times worse than the worst year since we started keeping records in 1961.

Divide those two numbers and we could be looking at a debt-to-GDP ratio of nearly 50 per cent by the end of the year. This, however, would not be unprecedented: it stood at a whopping 66.6 per cent in 1995.

That was when Prime Minister Jean Chrtien and Finance Minister Paul Martin launched an aggressive effort to balance the budget that still makes conservatives jealous. They did so not by massively increasing taxes, but by cutting federal spending by 14 per cent between 1995 and 1998. Thanks to these austerity measures, the economy prospered, growing between four and five per cent a year between 1997 and 2000. Accordingly, our debt-to-GDP ratio dropped to 29 per cent by 2009.

Barring a sudden end to their minority government, when the current crisis abates, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau will face a similar situation. It has always seemed somewhat paradoxical that Chrtien and his American counterpart, President Bill Clinton, were able to balance their budgets in the 90s, while their conservative successors watched them balloon once again. Yet centre-left governments often find it easier to drastically reduce spending, because people tend to believe that they are doing it out of necessity, rather than ideology, and therefore are more inclined to give them a pass.

Will this current crop of Liberals follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and do what needs to be done to stabilize this countrys finances, retaining the prosperity that sustains our way of life and preserving it for future generations? We certainly hope so, but their own recent history is cause for concern.

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NP View: Will these Liberals be willing to do what Chrtien and Martin did? - National Post

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