Klobuchar Ramped Up Prosecutions, Except in Cases Against Police – The New York Times

“In 2000, a Minnesota judge cut an immigrant a break, handing down a 364-day suspended sentence, one day less than what would result in his likely deportation. But the office prosecuting him for welfare fraud fought the judge’s mercy, pushing to add two extra days, and won on appeal.

The prosecutor who headed that office, Amy Klobuchar, parlayed her tough-on-crime reputation into a Senate seat and now a run for the Democratic presidential nomination. But even as she has found some traction in the race, her choices as a prosecutor have led to tough questions on the campaign trail.

During her eight-year tenure as the Hennepin County attorney, the chief prosecutor in Minneapolis, Ms. Klobuchar sought stiffer sentences, tougher plea deals and more trials, and vowed to call out judges for “letting offenders off the hook too easily.”

Those tactics served her well during her political rise, winning support from some conservatives and inoculating her from attacks by Republican opponents. But her record has also come under attack from civil rights activists who say she pursued policies that shored up her support in white suburbs at the cost of unfairly targeting minorities and declining to prosecute police shootings.”

Children Freeze to Death as Attack Prompts Largest Exodus of Syrian War – The New York Times

“REYHANLI, Turkey — The baby wasn’t moving. Her body had gone hot, then cold. Her father rushed her to a hospital, going on foot when he could not find a car, but it was too late.

At 18 months, Iman Leila had frozen to death.

In the half-finished concrete shell that had been home since they ran for their lives across northwest Syria, the Leila family had spent three weeks enduring nighttime temperatures that barely rose above 20.

“I dream about being warm,” Iman’s father, Ahmad Yassin Leila, said a few days later by phone. “I just want my children to feel warm. I don’t want to lose them to the cold. I don’t want anything except a house with windows that keeps out the cold and the wind.”

Ahmad Yassin Leila and his infant daughter Iman, who froze to death.

Syria’s uprising began in a flare of hope almost exactly nine years ago. Now, amid one of the worst humanitarian emergencies of the war, some of those who chanted for freedom and dignity in 2011 want only to ward off the winter cold.”

 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
There is misery, suffering, blood and death on Trump’s hands. When he stabbed the Kurds in the back, by removing our small force that protected them from airstrikes from Russian and the Syrian government, he unleashed this terror on them and on our other allies in the area, the Syrian rebels, who I think, were being protected also by the military prowess of the Kurds. I am disgusted, and embarassed by our current president, and his subservience to Putin ofRussia, Bashar Al Assad of Syria, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.

Opinion | No, President Trump: You’ve Weakened America’s Soft Power – By Joseph S. Nye Jr. – The New York Times

No, President Trump: You’ve Weakened America’s Soft Power

Armed forces aren’t the only power America projects. Its values stir admiration around the globe. But they’re taking a beating in the White House.

By 

Professor Nye coined the term “soft power” in 1989.

Credit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times

“President Trump claims he “made America great again.” The facts show just the opposite. The United States has lost credibility since 2017. The president’s looseness with the truth has debased the currency of trust that is needed in a crisis, and his continual disdain for our allies means we have fewer friends.

There is clear evidence that Mr. Trump’s presidency has eroded America’s soft power — the power to attract rather than command. According to a new Pew poll, only 29 percent of people surveyed in 33 countries trust Trump. He ranks as low as President Xi Jinping of China. A year ago, Gallup polled 134 countries and similarly found that only 30 percent of the people held a favorable view of the United States under Mr. Trump’s leadership. That was a drop of almost 20 points since Barack Obama’s presidency. And an annual British index, the Soft Power 30, showed America slipping from first place in 2016 to fifth place in 2019.

Our power comes not only from our military and economic might. Most previous presidents have understood that power also comes from being able to attract others. If we can get you to want what we want, then we do not have to force others to do what we want. If the United States represents values that others want to follow, we can economize on sticks and carrots. Added to hard power, the soft power of attraction is what the military calls a force multiplier. And that makes our values a source of American power.

Indeed, our absence of government cultural policies like those China promotes can itself be a source of attraction. Hollywood movies that showcase independent women and a free society in action can attract people in countries that lack those opportunities. So, too, does the charitable work of American foundations and the benefits of freedom of inquiry at American universities. On the other hand, when our policies appear hypocritical, arrogant and indifferent to others’ views, the government can undermine our nation’s soft power. When Donald Trump interprets “America First” in a narrow way, he makes everyone else feel second class.”

William McRaven: If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid – The Washington Post

Joseph Maguire (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Joseph Maguire (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Feb. 21, 2020 at 5:04 p.m. PST

William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

“Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and philosopher, once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration — all trying to do something — all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence.

I have known Joe for more than 40 years. There is no better officer, no better man and no greater patriot. He served for 36 years as a Navy SEAL. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was chosen to command all of Naval Special Warfare, including the SEALs. Those were dark days for the SEALs. Our combat losses from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the highest in our history, and Joe and his wife, Kathy, attended every SEAL funeral, providing comfort and solace to the families of the fallen.”

Source: William McRaven: If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid – The Washington Post

Opinion | Dems, Want to Defeat Trump? Form a Team of Rivals – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

“If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now. My short answer is that the Democrats have to do something extraordinary — forge a national unity ticket the likes of which they have never forged before. And that’s true even if Democrats nominate someone other than Bernie Sanders.

What would this super ticket look like? Well, I suggest Sanders — and Michael Bloomberg, who seems to be his most viable long-term challenger — lay it out this way:

“I want people to know that if I am the Democratic nominee these will be my cabinet choices — my team of rivals. I want Amy Klobuchar as my vice president. Her decency, experience and moderation will be greatly appreciated across America and particularly in the Midwest. I want Mike Bloomberg (or Bernie Sanders) as my secretary of the Treasury. Our plans for addressing income inequality are actually not that far apart, and if we can blend them together it will be great for the country and reassure markets. I want Joe Biden as my secretary of state. No one in our party knows the world better or has more credibility with our allies than Joe. I will ask Elizabeth Warren to serve as health and human services secretary. No one could bring more energy and intellect to the task of expanding health care for more Americans than Senator Warren.”

David Lindsay: I’ve watched at least half of all the debates, and this idea has been in my mind since the first one. Thank you Tom Friedman, for saying so clearly what I and, according to the comments, many others, have been thinking.

Opinion | Republican Cynicism May Win Trump Re-election – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Republican Cynicism May Win Trump Re-election

Fiscal hypocrisy is his biggest advantage.

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“It may have slipped by you, but last week Donald Trump suggested that he may be about to give U.S. farmers — who have yet to see any benefits from his much-touted trade deal with China — another round of government aid. This would be on top of the billions in farm aid that Trump has already delivered, costing taxpayers several times as much as Barack Obama’s auto bailout — a bailout Republicans fiercely denounced as “welfare” and “crony capitalism” at the time.

If this sounds to you like a double standard — Democratic bailouts bad, Republican bailouts good — that’s because it is. But it should be seen as part of a broader pattern of breathtaking fiscal hypocrisy, in which the G.O.P. went from insisting that federal debt posed an existential threat under Obama to complete indifference to budget deficits under Trump. This 180-degree turn is, as far as I can tell, the most cynical policy reversal of modern times.

And this cynicism may win Trump the election.

If Trump does win, there will be many recriminations among Democrats, especially about the vanity candidates who continue to fragment the field despite having no realistic chance of becoming the nominee. But while these recriminations will have much truth to them, the biggest factor working in Trump’s favor is a strong economy — not as strong as he claims, but good enough to provide a significant political lift (unless growth is derailed by the coronavirus).”

Opinion | I Helped Create the Nation’s Top Spy Job. It’s About to Be Destroyed. – By Jane Harman – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Harman was a lead author of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which created the director of national intelligence position.

Credit…Bernd Von Jutrczenka/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“It’s a really bad day at the office when the spooks are spooked. That’s what happened on Wednesday when President Trump announced that Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, will become the acting director of national intelligence. Though Mr. Grenell is credited with effectively pushing the White House’s agenda on Iran and China, he has virtually no intelligence experience and is viewed as very partisan. This rattled the spy community and stoked fears that a purge may be coming, fears that seemed to be confirmed on Friday when Mr. Grenell ousted his office’s No. 2 official. In fact, our whole country should be spooked.

Mr. Grenell was appointed after the president reportedly became angered by a congressional briefing that said Russia is trying to help him in the 2020 election by meddling in the Democratic primaries. So Mr. Trump removed Joseph Maguire, the highly regarded acting director of national intelligence, and temporarily assigned Mr. Grenell, who is keeping his other roles.

Reports say that Kashyap Patel, a former National Security Council staff member who sought to discredit the Russia inquiry, is a senior adviser to Mr. Grenell. The worry is that this new team is meant to do one thing: undermine the core mission of the intelligence community, which is to speak truth to power.

We’ve seen this movie before, and it didn’t end well. In 2004, the C.I.A.’s director, Porter Goss, forced out career experts over a counterintelligence dispute. A review of that activity by the Silberman-Robb Commission ultimately resulted in Mr. Goss’s resignation. The coming purge could be far worse.”

Opinion | Bernie Sanders Is Making a Big Mistake – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

“The last four presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — are four very different politicians. But they have one crucial similarity: They all tried to appeal to voters who weren’t obvious supporters.

Clinton promised a “third way,” distinct from traditional Democratic or Republican policies. Bush ran on compassionate conservatism. Obama said that red and blue America shared more in common than pundits claimed.

Even Trump, radical as he is, flouted Republican orthodoxy by sounding like a populist Democrat on Social Security, Medicare and trade. Polls showed that voters judged Trump to be more moderate than any Republican nominee since the 1970s.

The art of peeling off voters — those in the middle or those who aren’t ideological — may be the most important skill in politics. It doesn’t require a mushy centrist policy agenda, either. Trump has made that clear. So, in earlier eras, did Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

 ‘Politics of Hate’ Takes a Toll in Germany Well Beyond Immigrants – By Katrin Bennhold and Melissa Eddy – The New York Times

“COLOGNE, Germany — The last time Henriette Reker ran for mayor, she was nearly killed.

Ms. Reker was handing out flowers to voters at a bustling market in Cologne in 2015, when a man took a rose with one hand and rammed a kitchen knife into her throat with the other. He wanted to punish her for her pro-refugee stance.

Five years later, Ms. Reker is running again. But she is an exception. Since she recovered from a coma to find herself elected, far-right death threats have become an everyday reality, not just for her but for an increasing number of local officials across Germany.

The acrimony is felt in town halls and village streets, where mayors now find themselves the targets of threats and intimidation. The effect has been chilling.

Some have stopped speaking out. Many have quit, tried to arm themselves or taken on police protection. The risks have mounted to such an extent that some German towns are unable to field candidates for leadership at all.”

David Lindsay: This is shockingly bad news about Germany.  The rise of the the extreme right there, and the violence and killings, seem to be an unexpected reaction to Merkel’s accepting over a million refugees in 2015, without the support of many Germans who felt threatened or betrayed.

It May Be the Biggest Tax Heist Ever. And Europe Wants Justice. – by David Segal – The New York Times

“. . .  Today, the men stand accused of participating in what Le Monde has called “the robbery of the century,” and what one academic declared “the biggest tax theft in the history of Europe.” From 2006 to 2011, these two and hundreds of bankers, lawyers and investors made off with a staggering $60 billion, all of it siphoned from the state coffers of European countries.

As one participant would later put it, taxpayer funds were an irresistible mark for a simple reason: They never ran out.

The scheme was built around “cum-ex trading” (from the Latin for “with-without”): a monetary maneuver to avoid double taxation of investment profits that plays out like high finance’s answer to a David Copperfield stage illusion. Through careful timing, and the coordination of a dozen different transactions, cum-ex trades produced two refunds for dividend tax paid on one basket of stocks.

One basket of stocks. Abracadabra. Two refunds.

The process was repeated over and over, as word of cum-ex spread like a quiet contagion. Germany was hardest hit, with an estimated $30 billion in losses, followed by France, taken for about $17 billion. Smaller sums were drained away from Spain, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Norway, Finland, Poland and others.

Outrage in these countries has focused on the City of London, Britain’s answer to Wall Street. Less scrutinized has been the role played by Americans, both individual investors and branches of United States investment banks in London, including Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.”

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