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Senator Chris Murphy Calls for a New Progressive Foreign Policy -- But Where's The Beef?

by: abg22

Wed Jun 17, 2015 at 09:20:44 AM EDT

( - promoted by ctblogger)

There are many reasons to be skeptical of US Senator Chris Murphy's call for a new progressive foreign policy, which he announced in a brief op-ed earlier this year and fleshed out in a longer article in the nation's leading foreign policy journal "Foreign Affairs" last week. But if skepticism is warranted, it is not for the reasons the beltway media has given. Predictably, the beltway nattering nabobs have largely ignored the content of Murphy's foray into defining a progressive foreign policy doctrine that is not merely reactive, isolationist or reflexively anti-intervention, and leapt to uncover his ulterior political motives. Is he trying to undermine the more hawkish Hillary Clinton? Assert his alpha male status among a younger generation of progressive Democratic senators? Buzzfeed wondered whether Murphy was trying to become the "Elizabeth Warren of foreign policy."

It's not that Murphy, a shrewd politician, is incapable of or immune to positioning himself favorably for what is undoubtedly a bright future in the Democratic Party. (In a previous MLN post, I argued that he should be Hillary's VP.) The Buzzfeed analysis was apt in the sense that Senator Warren has become the "id" of the Democratic Party on domestic policy while the analogous space on foreign policy is still a titillating vacuum waiting to be occupied. Longshot Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee (who left the Republican Party partly as a result of his opposition to the Iraq War) has been trying to stake out that territory as well, as one of the few issues where he could possibly get traction against frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Her weakness on foreign policy (at least in the primary) is not lost on Clinton herself: the New York Times recently reported that Clinton's campaign team was mainly worried about a primary challenge not from the populist anti-Wall Street wing of the party, but from the anti-war wing that supplied the much-needed initial propulsion to then-Senator Barack Obama's 2008 primary campaign. For the first time in a decade there are no ground troops in Iraq or Afghanistan; and income inequality and other domestic issues are dominating the progressive bandwidth. But that could easily change. Next to organized labor, anti-war activists have arguably been the most enduring force within the Democratic Party since the 1960s -- more as a reactive force than a proactive one, but with a kind of latent potency that Clinton is right to fear.

Political junkies may enjoy chewing on the "This Town" calculus, but what about the actual content of Murphy's manifesto? Murphy's initial op-ed -- long on idealistic rhetoric, short on specifics -- left many people wondering: Where's the beef? The Foreign Affairs follow-up, co-authored with fellow 40-something Democratic Senators Martin Heinrich and Brian Schatz, begs the question: Is this really the beef? The Foreign Affairs piece outlines eight principles of a "new vision for America's power," but anyone with a passing familiarity with American politics or international relations should be immediately skeptical that these are new ideas at all. Political ideas are pretty much all recycled, old concepts gerrymandered onto new realities, and this is especially true in the realm of foreign policy. Any articulation of a progressive foreign policy will inevitably draw heavily on Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, JFK's 1962 University of Washington speech, and in a more muted way on President Obama's first-term speeches in Cairo and Prague, which Obama's critics and even his allies might say were later mugged by reality.

Murphy has actually drawn on a somewhat unlikely other source: Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower's famous "Chance For Peace" speech in 1953 -- delivered shortly after the death of Joseph Stalin, when for a brief moment it seemed like the incipient Cold War might be short-circuited -- is the inspiration or at least the eponym for Murphy's foreign policy website (www.chanceforpeace.org). The speech is famous chiefly for its stirring 'guns versus butter' passage: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger." As historian James Ledbetter has written, "Never before, and rarely afterward, did a U.S. president so passionately and prominently lay out a vision for ending tensions with the Soviet Union or so frankly criticize the social costs of military spending." Those are good progressive principles, and drawing them from an iconic GOP President shows that a progressive foreign policy is fundamentally based on a kind of bipartisan common sense. But this genealogy is actually quite controversial, and with uncomfortable overtones given our current conflict with Russia: leftist commentators have criticized the Chance For Peace speech since the day it was delivered as an insincere propaganda ploy by a president who actually had no intention of seeking reduced tensions with the Soviet Union, or reducing the massive US defense budget. This is a particularly uncomfortable resonance as Murphy's own aggressive rhetoric against Vladimir Putin has raised questions on the left about whether he is acceding to a new Cold War mentality.

Murphy's eight principles reflect themes that have been present in the conversation about a "new" progressive foreign policy at least since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This conversation was interrupted somewhat by 9/11 but has ripened in the present era of climate change and the rise of China, where a preference for multi-lateralism seems not just advisable but an unavoidable 'fact of life' in a multi-polar world. In this sense, a progressive foreign policy -- what Murphy calls a "forward-looking" vision for America's power -- is simply a logical response to globalization and the distinctly non-zero-sum nature of the threats we face.

Meanwhile, torture, mass surveillance, drone strikes, and other repellent features of the "Global War on Terror" have sharpened the understanding among progressive foreign policy thinkers that they must make their case morally as well as pragmatically. Peter Beinart's 2008 book "Good Fight: Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again" is the best expression of the moral case for the kind of progressive and internationalist foreign policy that Murphy clearly seeks. Beinart's crucial argument that progressive domestic policies reducing inequality and lifting people out of poverty will enable America to effectively exercise soft power abroad has become Murphy's principle #7. That only progressives can replace the GOP's simplistic notion of America's strength as simply a measure of military spending and rhetorical bravado with a more robust concept of national security is a Lakoff-approved moral appeal that can work in general elections as well as primaries (though some on the left will fundamentally disagree that America should be seeking to project power at all).

Reining in covert operations, ending the assault on human rights and the English language that was "enhanced interrogation," and more congressional oversight of overseas military operations, are part of the Murphy Doctrine -- and they are not less significant for the fact that they resemble standard progressive criticisms of the imperial presidency going back to the War Powers Act and Church Committee of the 1970s. The advocacy for more foreign aid -- which regularly polls as the number-one expenditure in the federal budget that Americans don't mind cutting -- clearly distinguishes the anti-neocon Murphy Doctrine from the anti-neocon Rand Paul Doctrine, and shows Murphy, in his willingness to touch political "third rails," at his best. The strength of Murphy's language about climate protection is heartening: "Climate change is a national security threat. Addressing it should be interwoven into every aspect of US foreign policy."  If last year's eclectic and leader-less People's Climate March in New York City made a singular point, it was that there is tremendous energy along the entire spectrum of the left, and particularly young activists, around the imperative of maintaining a livable planet, and that limiting fossil fuel emissions to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius must be at the forefront of a progressive foreign policy agenda, or that agenda will lose all credibility. But isn't there a moral case for addressing climate change that goes beyond whether or not it is a "national security threat?" That is the case Pope Francis's forthcoming encyclical about climate change will be making, and progressives in the United States should be making it as well.

There are still many unanswered questions about the Murphy Doctrine. Murphy has remained staunchly opposed to US intervention in Middle East conflicts, but supports US intervention on the side of Ukraine in its ongoing dispute with Russia over territories in eastern Ukraine. What is the difference between supporting intervention in Ukraine and eschewing intervention in Syria? There is a case to be made there, but Murphy has not yet articulated it with any granularity. What about nuclear weapons? Even some Republican foreign policy elites (Henry Kissinger, George Shultz) have called for their gradual elimination, but this does not appear to be among Murphy's priorities. What exactly is the 'progressive foreign policy' position on free trade deals like TPP, currently the subject of enormous friction between Democrats in Congress and the White House, with both claiming to be acting on behalf of progressive interests?

And the timing of Murphy's foreign policy manifesto and his endorsement of Hillary Clinton also raises questions. Does Clinton, who voted to authorize war in Iraq and supported US intervention in the Syrian civil war (she was overruled by President Obama) stand for a progressive foreign policy? If not, then why did Murphy endorse her?

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Congressman Himes Sides with President & Against Labor, the Environment, Human Rights & Pubic Safety

by: dsut56

Thu Jun 11, 2015 at 22:43:43 PM EDT

( - promoted by ctblogger)

Last week Congressman Jim Himes announced his decision to side with President Obama and a majority of Republicans in the House and vote FOR Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) - also known as Fast Track - for the President. The TPA bill has already passed the Senate. A vote has been scheduled in the House for Friday. If it passes the House, this will grease the skids for passage of massive trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Congress giving up its authority over trade policy and transferring that power to the Executive Branch of government. Congress will not be allowed to amend the agreement the President has signed and there will be limited debate and only an up or down vote to ratify it.

On most issues, I agree with and support both my Congressman and my President. However, I feel they are both wrong on this trade deal and the way in which we are passing it - and so does every other member of the Connecticut Congressional delegation. The TPP is less about free and fair trade than it is about corporate power and managed trade. The Congress should not be abdicating its authority and American workers deserve better than to see yet another so called free trade deal railroaded through resulting in more lost jobs and a continued race to the bottom on wages and environmental standards.

Please watch this video and then call Congressman Himes and ask him to stand with American workers and vote NO on Fast Track - 866-338-1015:


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On SBAC - Connecticut's Best Places for parents and students...

by: ctblogger

Mon Jun 08, 2015 at 09:21:32 AM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

Every year groups like Livability.com release lists of the best places to live in American.  The organization observes that, "Making a Best Places to Live list is part art and part science."

This year, Connecticut's public school parents learned the value of living in a school district where the local superintendent and other school administrators treat their public school students and parents with respect, dignity and maturity.

In far too many towns, local school officials, driven by the directives of Governor Malloy's administration, misled, harassed and abused parents and students who wanted and deserved honest information about their fundamental rights as they related to the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scheme.

While there were thankfully towns where local administrators did provide parents and students with the truth, far too many families were forced to confront the fact that their community's school leaders refused to conduct themselves in an honest, ethical and moral fashion.

As a result, mapping where Connecticut parents and students are treated with respect has become particularly easy.

To identify the best communities for parents and students, one need only look at the percentage of high school students who opted out or refused to take the unfair Common Core SBAC test, a test designed to fail the vast majority of students, a test that was particularly dangerous and damaging for high school student who intend to go on to college.

The best places for parents and students to live is where school administrators recognize the importance of treating their community with the respect they deserve.

And based on that vitally important criteria, the communities and school districts that rise to the very top of the list are Stonington, Madison and Regional School District #19 (E.O. Smith High School which includes Mansfield, Ashford and Willington) and Danbury.

Some of the other towns where school administrators deserve praise include Region #9, Westport, Watertown, Groton, New Fairfield, Windsor, Winchester (Gilbert School), Granby, Manchester, Ellington, Darien and New Milford.

When the test scores arrive this summer, more and more parents will learn that the SBAC test is literally designed to label the majority of children as failures.  Parents will wish they lived in a districts led by school administrators who understood their duty to their parents and students.

At the other end of the spectrum are many of Connecticut's poorest communities and a set of other towns whose school administrators crumbled to the pressure from the Malloy administration.

For a stunning example of arrogance, one need only look to Fairfield, where the superintendent and assistant superintendent saw fit to mislead and lie to parents about their opt out rights and where students who were opted out were forced to sit and stay in the testing rooms despite the despite the fact that the SBAC test protocol required that students who were taking the test were not supposed to be present in the testing room."

All school districts have been asked to report the number of students, by grade levels, that were opted out of the Common Core SBAC Testing.

The following chart represents the data school districts provided on the number of high school juniors who were opted out or refused to take the Common Core SBAC test.  If your town is not listed it is because they have not provided the requested information to date.  There are towns that achieved high opt out rates. One of West Hartford's high schools reported  a 52% opt out rate, while the other high school in the town reported 8%

The chart will be updated and republished as more information is made available by the superintendents.

Parents who live in communities where school administrators chose to stand with their parents and students should be commended!

Those who live in communities where school administrators mistreated misled, abused, harassed and lied to parents and students should consider demanding that their local school boards take action to ensure that the district is led by administrators who are willing and able to do their jobs in an appropriate and ethical manner.

Perhaps most disturbing is that some administrators appeared to be pleased that they were able to force a 100% test participation rate, a sad testament to the state's inappropriate demand that everyone take the poorly designed and unfair Common Core SBAC test... What a sad commentary!

TOWN % OPT OUT

Stonington 93%
Madison 86%
EO Smith 85%
Danbury 80%
Bridgeport Magnets (Ferris Wheeler Magnet Programs 77%-35%) 77%
Region #9 (ELA Part 2 66% Math 60%, ELA 51%) 66%
Westport 60%
Watertown 58%
Groton 51%
New Fairfield 39%
Windsor 39%
Winchester (Gilbert School) 38%
Granby 30%
Manchester 19%
Ellington 17%
Darien 15%
New Milford 12%
Newtown 9%
Coventry 8%
Region #5 Amity 7%
Region #12 6%
Glastonbury 3%
Simsbury 3%
Old Saybrook 3%
Wilton 2%
Griswold 2%
Bethel 1%
Chesire 1%
Colchester 1%
Fairfield 1%
Killingly 1%
Lebanon 1%
Monroe 1%
Montville 1%
Putnam 1%
Region #16 1%
Region #17 1%
Shelton 1%
Wolcott 1%
Bloomfield 0%
Bolton 0%
Bridgeport (High Schools) 0%
Cromwell 0%
Norwich 0%
Meriden 0%
Region #15 0%
Region #10 0%
Seymour 0%
Westbrook 0%

Note:  The 1% communities are those in which at least one student was opted out.

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Food for thought...

by: ctblogger

Fri Jun 05, 2015 at 15:59:45 PM EDT


The next time you hear GE whine about the state budget, remember that they know a thing or two about NOT paying their fair share.

New York Times, 03.24.11:

General Electric, the nation's largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.

[...]

In a regulatory filing just a week before the Japanese disaster put a spotlight on the company's nuclear reactor business, G.E. reported that its tax burden was 7.4 percent of its American profits, about a third of the average reported by other American multinationals. Even those figures are overstated, because they include taxes that will be paid only if the company brings its overseas profits back to the United States. With those profits still offshore, G.E. is effectively getting money back.

Such strategies, as well as changes in tax laws that encouraged some businesses and professionals to file as individuals, have pushed down the corporate share of the nation's tax receipts - from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.

[...]

The assortment of tax breaks G.E. has won in Washington has provided a significant short-term gain for the company's executives and shareholders. While the financial crisis led G.E. to post a loss in the United States in 2009, regulatory filings show that in the last five years, G.E. has accumulated $26 billion in American profits, and received a net tax benefit from the I.R.S. of $4.1 billion.

But critics say the use of so many shelters amounts to corporate welfare, allowing G.E. not just to avoid taxes on profitable overseas lending but also to amass tax credits and write-offs that can be used to reduce taxes on billions of dollars of profit from domestic manufacturing. They say that the assertive tax avoidance of multinationals like G.E. not only shortchanges the Treasury, but also harms the economy by discouraging investment and hiring in the United States.

"In a rational system, a corporation's tax department would be there to make sure a company complied with the law," said Len Burman, a former Treasury official who now is a scholar at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. "But in our system, there are corporations that view their tax departments as a profit center, and the effects on public policy can be negative."


Now, please explain to me again why I should be concerned with GE's fissy fit over the state budget?

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What do you know...Democrats balance terrible budget on backs of middle class

by: ctblogger

Tue Jun 02, 2015 at 10:08:28 AM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

More taxpayer money for Malloy's two new pet charter schools while Connecticut's public schools face record cuts is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the budget the Democrats are scheduled to pass later today.

Candidate Den Malloy said that, if elected, he wouldn't raise taxes but the budget Malloy and the Democratic leaders are pushing includes at least $500 million in new tax revenue with a vast share of those funds coming from Connecticut's middle class.

And all this while Malloy, with the help of Democrats in the legislature, continue to allow Connecticut's wealthy to go without paying their fair share!

But not letting the truth get in the way of some good political rhetoric, Connecticut's Democratic Governor and Democratic legislative leaders released a joint statement yesterday (Sunday) declaring victory and patting their own backs.

The statement began,

Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Senate President Martin Looney, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff announced that they have reached an agreement on a biennium budget. The package takes Connecticut into the future by funding transportation, providing important property tax relief, and funding vital programs.

From Malloy,

"A brighter tomorrow will start with this budget today. This agreement will help Connecticut now and in the long-run - it helps transform our transportation infrastructure as we aim for a best-in-class system. It supports our schools, supports the middle class, and supports vital programs for those who need it most. Most importantly, it helps us build a Connecticut for the long-term, making our state an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family."

From Senate President Martin Looney,

"This budget meets the State's obligations and provides historic property tax relief for the people of Connecticut," said Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). "After years of acknowledging the need to change our Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, this year, we delivered revolutionary changes by taking into account the relative need for assistance based on the percentage of tax exempt property in each municipality. We also begin to provide substantial relief for car owners and high mill rate municipalities on their car tax."

From Speaker of the House Brendon Sharkey,

"This budget protects hard-working, middle-class families by providing property tax relief through additional aid to our communities, and funds vital services people rely on every day by asking the wealthy and corporations to pay a little bit more. The legislature worked closely with the governor to finalize a budget that represents the wide ranging priorities of our diverse state, and sets us on a path that encourages continued economic growth. Concerns over some provisions in earlier versions of the budget were heard and reflected in the final deliberations," said Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden).

Impressive words to be sure... they just happen not to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth...

But now, thanks to the CT Mirror, we learn the real truth;

The CT Mirror's new article is entitled, New budget includes $200 million income tax hit on middle class and reads,

A last-minute component of the new two-year state budget deal includes a $100 million-per-year income tax hike on Connecticut's middle class, sources confirmed early Monday.

That hike would not come in the form of increased paycheck withholding, but rather by reducing the credit households can claim to offset their local property tax payments from $300 to $200. It also would change eligibility rules that further reduce the relief some households would receive.

[...]

A state tax incidence report released in December confirmed what state officials have long asserted, that the property tax is the most regressive levy in the state. That report found households earning less than $48,000 per year effectively pay nearly one-quarter of their annual income to cover state and local taxes. That also includes families and individuals that rent their housing, and whose rental charges reflect the property taxes their landlord must pay.

But the middle- and lower-income families also are sacrificing on the tax side of the new budget - and more than originally anticipated.

The planned restoration of a sales tax break on clothing costing less than $50, which is worth $280 million to consumers over the next two years, is dropped ...

[...]

Add in the $200 million extra in income taxes that the middle class will pay, and this amounts of more than $500 million in extra revenue coming to the state from middle- and lower-income households.

You'll want to wait until your lunch has settled, but for the details about the Democrat's budget debacle read the full Mirror story which can be found at:  http://ctmirror.org/2015/06/01...

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Tell state lawmakers to stand up for victims of domestic violence

by: ctblogger

Mon Jun 01, 2015 at 13:21:30 PM EDT

Today, The Connecticut Against Gun Violence group (CAGV) sent out an urgent email to their followers urging them to call their state lawmakers and demand that H.B. 6848, An Act Protecting Victims Of Domestic Violence gets called for an up or down vote before this week's legislative deadline.

This common sense bill will protect victims of domestic violence by requiring accusers of domestic violence who receive a restraining order to surrender their firearms while the order is in effect.

Please do what you can to spread the word about this important piece of legislation that will protect victims of domestic violence.

Message from CAGV:

I urge you to demand that the General Assembly call a bill that will help protect victims of domestic violence to the floor for a vote now and to ask legislators to vote yes on it.

The Connecticut General Assembly is about to kill legislation that will help protect victims of domestic violence from gun violence.  We need to raise our voices and let them know this is unacceptable; they need to act on this NOW!  Victims of domestic violence need you to take 2-minutes now to help get the message to legislators so click here to send your message (see below for the message that will be sent to legislators).

Women who are victims of domestic violence are 5 times more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner when a gun is present.  The period immediately following a victim applying for a temporary restraining order is the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence.

Please click here to send the members of the CT General Assembly a simple message: They must act NOW to help protect victims of domestic violence.

Connecticut Against Gun Violence has been working hard this year to pass legislation closing the loophole that allows persons subject to Temporary Restraining Orders to keep their firearms and ammunition.  The current law only applies to Permanent Restraining Orders but those can take weeks to be issued but it's the period when the TRO applies that is most dangerous.  According to the CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Connecticut averaged 14 intimate partner homicides annually between 2000 and 2012.  Firearms have been the most frequently used weapon in those homicides (39%).  Passage of this legislation will prevent gun violence so please click here to send a message to the members of the General Assembly and urge them to pass it now.

This bill will save lives!

Email to legislators:
Subject: Help Protect Domestic Violence Victims Now!

Dear (insert legislators name)

I demand that you to call a bill that will help protect victims of domestic violence by removing firearms and ammunition from those subject to a domestic violence temporary restraining order to the floor for a vote now and to vote yes on it.  Victims of domestic violence need the members of the House to pass a bill tonight to help protect victims of domestic violence so it can be brought before the Senate.

Women who are victims of domestic violence are 5 times more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner when a gun is present.  The period immediately following a victim applying for a temporary restraining order is the most dangerous time for them.   The loophole that allows persons subject to Temporary Restraining Orders to keep their firearms and ammunition needs to be closed.  The current law only applies to Permanent Restraining Orders but those can take weeks to be issued but it's the period when the TRO applies that is most dangerous.  According to the CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Connecticut averaged 14 intimate partner homicides annually between 2000 and 2012.  Firearms have been the most frequently used weapon in those homicides (39%).  Passage of this legislation will prevent gun violence so please act now to prevent more victims of domestic violence from being the victims of gun violence.

This bill will save lives!

Sincerely
(insert senders name)

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