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Israel celebrates 50 years as occupier

Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
 
Israel is to hold lavish celebrations over the coming weeks to mark the 50th anniversary of what it calls the “liberation of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights” – or what the rest of us describe as the birth of the occupation.
The centrepiece event will take place in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. The West Bank settlement “bloc” enjoys wide support in Israel, not least because it was established long ago by the supposedly left-wing Labour party, now heading the opposition.
 
Two state solution – a pipe dream
The jubilee is a potent reminder that for Israelis, most of whom have never known a time before the occupation, Israel’s rule over the Palestinians seems as irreversible as the laws of nature. But the extravagance of the festivities also underscores the growth over five decades of Israel’s self-assurance as an occupier.
Documents found this month in Israel’s archives reveal that, when Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967, its first concern was to hoodwink the international community.
The foreign ministry ordered Israel’s ambassadors to mischaracterise its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem as a simple “municipal fusion”. To avoid diplomatic reprisals, Israel claimed it was necessary to ease the provision of essential services to the occupied Palestinian population.
Interestingly, those drafting the order advised that the deception was unlikely to succeed. The United States had already insisted that Israel commit no unilateral moves.
But within months Israel had evicted thousands of Palestinians from the Old City and destroyed their homes. Washington and Europe have been turning a blind eye to such actions ever since.
One of the Zionist movement’s favourite early slogans was: “Dunam after dunam, goat after goat”. The seizure of small areas of territory measured in dunams, the demolition of the odd home, and the gradual destruction of herding animals would slowly drive the Palestinians off most of their land, “liberating” it for Jewish colonisation. If it was done piecemeal, the objections from overseas would remain muffled. It has proved a winning formula.
Fifty years on, the colonisation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank is so entrenched that a two-state solution is nothing more than a pipe dream.
 
‘What matters that Jews do’
Nonetheless, US president Donald Trump has chosen this inauspicious moment to dispatch an envoy, Jason Greenblatt, to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a “goodwill” response, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has unveiled a framework for settlement building. It is exactly the kind of formula for deception that has helped Israel consolidate the occupation since 1967.
Netanyahu says expansion will be “restricted” to “previously developed” settlements, or “adjacent” areas, or, depending on the terrain, “land close” to a settlement.
Peace Now points out that the settlements already have jurisdiction over some 10 per cent of the West Bank, while far more is treated as “state land”. The new framework, says the group, gives the settlers a green light to “build everywhere”.
The Trump White House has shrugged its shoulders. A statement following Netanyahu’s announcement judged the settlements no “impediment to peace”, adding that Israel’s commitments to previous US administrations would be treated as moot.
Effectively, the US is wiping the slate clean, creating a new baseline for negotiations after decades of Israeli changes stripping the Palestinians of territory and rights.
Although none of this bodes well, Egypt and Jordan’s leaders met Trump this month to push for renewed talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The White House is said to be preparing to welcome the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.
Some senior Palestinians are rightly wary. Abbas Zaki, a Fatah leader, fears Trump will try to impose a regional solution on Arab states, over Abbas’s head, designed to “eliminate the Palestinian cause altogether”.
David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, reportedly once said:
“What matters is not what the goyim [non-Jews] say, but what the Jews do.”
 
Israeli apartheid regime
For nearly a quarter of a century, the Oslo accords dangled an illusory peace carrot that usefully distracted the global community as Israel nearly quadrupled its settler population, making even a highly circumscribed Palestinian state unrealisable.
Now, that game plan is about to be revived in new form. While the US, Israel, Jordan and Egypt focus on the hopeless task of creating a regional framework for peace, Israel will be left undisturbed once again to seize more dunams and more goats.
In Israel, the debate is no longer simply about whether to build settler homes, or about how many can be justified. Government ministers argue instead about the best moment to annex vast areas of the West Bank associated with so-called settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion.
Israel’s imminent celebrations should lay to rest any confusion that the occupation is still considered temporary. But when occupation becomes permanent, it metamorphoses into something far uglier.
It is past time to recognise that Israel has established an apartheid regime and one that serves as a vehicle for incremental ethnic cleansing. If there are to be talks, ending that outrage must be their first task.
A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.
 
Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.  His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

Comment

Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
 
Israel is to hold lavish celebrations over the coming weeks to mark the 50th anniversary of what it calls the “liberation of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights” – or what the rest of us describe as the birth of the occupation.
The centrepiece event will take place in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. The West Bank settlement “bloc” enjoys wide support in Israel, not least because it was established long ago by the supposedly left-wing Labour party, now heading the opposition.
 
Two state solution – a pipe dream
The jubilee is a potent reminder that for Israelis, most of whom have never known a time before the occupation, Israel’s rule over the Palestinians seems as irreversible as the laws of nature. But the extravagance of the festivities also underscores the growth over five decades of Israel’s self-assurance as an occupier.
Documents found this month in Israel’s archives reveal that, when Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967, its first concern was to hoodwink the international community.
The foreign ministry ordered Israel’s ambassadors to mischaracterise its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem as a simple “municipal fusion”. To avoid diplomatic reprisals, Israel claimed it was necessary to ease the provision of essential services to the occupied Palestinian population.
Interestingly, those drafting the order advised that the deception was unlikely to succeed. The United States had already insisted that Israel commit no unilateral moves.
But within months Israel had evicted thousands of Palestinians from the Old City and destroyed their homes. Washington and Europe have been turning a blind eye to such actions ever since.
One of the Zionist movement’s favourite early slogans was: “Dunam after dunam, goat after goat”. The seizure of small areas of territory measured in dunams, the demolition of the odd home, and the gradual destruction of herding animals would slowly drive the Palestinians off most of their land, “liberating” it for Jewish colonisation. If it was done piecemeal, the objections from overseas would remain muffled. It has proved a winning formula.
Fifty years on, the colonisation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank is so entrenched that a two-state solution is nothing more than a pipe dream.
 
‘What matters that Jews do’
Nonetheless, US president Donald Trump has chosen this inauspicious moment to dispatch an envoy, Jason Greenblatt, to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a “goodwill” response, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has unveiled a framework for settlement building. It is exactly the kind of formula for deception that has helped Israel consolidate the occupation since 1967.
Netanyahu says expansion will be “restricted” to “previously developed” settlements, or “adjacent” areas, or, depending on the terrain, “land close” to a settlement.
Peace Now points out that the settlements already have jurisdiction over some 10 per cent of the West Bank, while far more is treated as “state land”. The new framework, says the group, gives the settlers a green light to “build everywhere”.
The Trump White House has shrugged its shoulders. A statement following Netanyahu’s announcement judged the settlements no “impediment to peace”, adding that Israel’s commitments to previous US administrations would be treated as moot.
Effectively, the US is wiping the slate clean, creating a new baseline for negotiations after decades of Israeli changes stripping the Palestinians of territory and rights.
Although none of this bodes well, Egypt and Jordan’s leaders met Trump this month to push for renewed talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The White House is said to be preparing to welcome the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.
Some senior Palestinians are rightly wary. Abbas Zaki, a Fatah leader, fears Trump will try to impose a regional solution on Arab states, over Abbas’s head, designed to “eliminate the Palestinian cause altogether”.
David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, reportedly once said:
“What matters is not what the goyim [non-Jews] say, but what the Jews do.”
 
Israeli apartheid regime
For nearly a quarter of a century, the Oslo accords dangled an illusory peace carrot that usefully distracted the global community as Israel nearly quadrupled its settler population, making even a highly circumscribed Palestinian state unrealisable.
Now, that game plan is about to be revived in new form. While the US, Israel, Jordan and Egypt focus on the hopeless task of creating a regional framework for peace, Israel will be left undisturbed once again to seize more dunams and more goats.
In Israel, the debate is no longer simply about whether to build settler homes, or about how many can be justified. Government ministers argue instead about the best moment to annex vast areas of the West Bank associated with so-called settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion.
Israel’s imminent celebrations should lay to rest any confusion that the occupation is still considered temporary. But when occupation becomes permanent, it metamorphoses into something far uglier.
It is past time to recognise that Israel has established an apartheid regime and one that serves as a vehicle for incremental ethnic cleansing. If there are to be talks, ending that outrage must be their first task.
A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.
 
Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.  His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

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As US continues its longest war, Taliban forges Russian ties
Tanya Rohatgi
The Wire
 
By making itself indispensable for conversations about Afghanistan, Russia can ensure that the US won’t be able to extricate itself from the longest war in its history without its help.
The past few months have seen a dramatic and largely unexpected shift in Russia’s policy and public stance in Afghanistan, demonstrative of its clamour for a geo-strategic comeback. In December 2016, Alexander Mantytskiy, the Russian ambassador to Afghanistan, revealed that Moscow was working with the Taliban to combat the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan. Many Afghan government officials as well as US army general Curtis Scaparrotti have made allegations – denied by Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin’s special envoy in Afghanistan – stating that Russia has been supplying arms and aid to the Taliban.
 
New alliance in Afghanistan
Beginning with Syria in 2015, Russia has expressed grave concern over the existence and activities of ISIS and sought to justify its involvement in counterterrorism efforts, most recently by exaggerating the extent to which ISIS had established cohorts in Afghanistan –perhaps in an attempt to bolster the legitimacy of its growing ties with the Taliban.
One can’t help but draw parallels with 1979, when the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan played up the threat posed to its communist government by the mujahiddin– which it prematurely claimed was backed by the US – in order to coax military support from an increasingly alarmed Soviet Union, which then proceeded to occupy Afghanistan in a decade-long invasion. In response to this, the Reagan administration used CIA resources to arm and train the mujahiddin through the 1980s, reasoning that the enemy of its enemy had the potential to be its friend.
Today, Russia is ostensibly subscribing to the same logic as it institutes channels of cooperation with the Taliban – which, in the first of many ironies, is the spawn of the mujahiddin that precipitated the disastrous end of the Soviet invasion. However, speculation abounds about whether it is truly ISIS that the Afghan Taliban considers enemy number 1, since the group is also openly and vociferously opposed to President Ashraf Ghani’s US-backed government.  Russia has to have been cognisant of this, especially in light of the truce called between the two militant outfits in August last year, when both dedicated their resources to fighting US-backed Afghan troops instead of each other.
 
Confusion prevails
In fact, Taliban leaders have countered the notion that Russian support was aimed at fighting ISIS, with one senior leader saying, “We had a common enemy. We needed support to get rid of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and Russia wanted all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible.” Another affirmed, “… when Russia began supporting us, ISIS didn’t exist anywhere in the world.  Their sole purpose was to strengthen us against the US and its allies.”
This argument holds some merit. In a statement before the Armed Services Committee, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, argued that “Russia has become more assertive over the past year, overtly lending legitimacy to the Taliban to undermine NATO efforts and bolster belligerents using the false narrative that only the Taliban are fighting ISIL-K (ISIS).” He further argued that the narrative of a formidable Islamic state in the region is propped on shaky legs, given that Afghan ISIS forces, or the ISIL-K, have been well contained by US operations termed ‘Green Sword’ (which killed a third of ISIL-K troops). He also points out that the outfit is largely cut off from the caliphate itself, and is composed primarily of former Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Afghan Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders who have managed to seize slices of territory.
 
The tables have turned
Clearly, Russian intentions behind supporting the Taliban are linked to broader geopolitical concerns – especially its negotiating power with the US. This resurgent Afghan conflict between the US and Russia is not only a call back to the Great Game, but also mirrors the one between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, with one crucial difference: the tables have now turned.
It cannot be denied that Russia is seeking to expand its influence around the globe; Russian president Vladimir Putin’s administration has been pushing aggressive rearmament programs, armed conflicts (such as the 1999 Chechen war, the 2014 annexation of Crimea, and airpower-fueled military engagement in Syria in 2015 and 2016) and alleged cyber attacks (such as the ones on US political databases in 2016). He has successfully leveraged all these methods to not only secure his domestic influence but also make Russia a key stakeholder in major international discussions.
By making itself indispensable to any conversation surrounding Afghanistan, Russia can ensure that the US won’t be able to extricate itself from the longest war in its history without Russian help. This would give Russia much greater latitude in negotiations with the US or NATO, especially regarding the easing of heavy sanctions imposed upon it in the aftermath of the Crimea annexation. It is also highly likely that Russia is carving out a front-and-centre seat in all conversations regarding Afghanistan’s future stability and preparing to take over the role of political climate regulator, at a time when the US features an administration disinclined to provide unconditional support to allied governments and threats from insurgent and terrorist organisations continue to rise.
Russia also sees its hegemonic status in Central Asia losing ground to South Asia or China, and is perhaps attempting to counter this.
 
Rivalries not unlikely
Central Asian countries have rich natural gas reserves and are actively seeking to diversify export portfolios by finding new markets to sell to, especially in South Asia. Since one of the most lucrative export routes goes through Afghanistan, control of this route would allow Russia to interrupt energy-resource flows out of the region and maintain a hold on these resources. Additionally, China has been consolidating economic control over Central Asia – China expert Raffaello Pantucci writes that “[Central Asian] markets are full of Chinese products, infrastructure is heavily built by Chinese firms with Chinese loans, leadership visits – either Chinese to the region or regional to China– are followed by announcements of massive deals being signed, and increasingly China is playing a more prominent role in regional security questions.” A growth in Russian military presence in the region will help Moscow counter the effects of Chinese economic dominance, especially by making Central Asia more dependent on Russia in regional security matters.
However, it is imperative that Moscow remembers that the outcome of any engagement with groups such as the Taliban is notoriously difficult to predict. While such association may prove fruitful in the short term – perhaps by eradicating all hope of US reconciliation with the Taliban, making US disengagement from the region far more complicated an endeavour or leveraging the possibility of these two outcomes to get what it wants in other arenas – Russia would do well to learn from the mistakes of the US in the 1980s. Russia should realise that in the long-term, such an arrangement could worsen the already high-octane terrorism landscape and create a hydra that will grow increasingly invincible with each misguided effort to end it, making comprehensive control of the region next to impossible.
 
Tanya Rohatgi is a student of international relations at Ashoka University, and a former intern at Carnegie India and The Wire.

Comment

Tanya Rohatgi
The Wire
 
By making itself indispensable for conversations about Afghanistan, Russia can ensure that the US won’t be able to extricate itself from the longest war in its history without its help.
The past few months have seen a dramatic and largely unexpected shift in Russia’s policy and public stance in Afghanistan, demonstrative of its clamour for a geo-strategic comeback. In December 2016, Alexander Mantytskiy, the Russian ambassador to Afghanistan, revealed that Moscow was working with the Taliban to combat the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan. Many Afghan government officials as well as US army general Curtis Scaparrotti have made allegations – denied by Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin’s special envoy in Afghanistan – stating that Russia has been supplying arms and aid to the Taliban.
 
New alliance in Afghanistan
Beginning with Syria in 2015, Russia has expressed grave concern over the existence and activities of ISIS and sought to justify its involvement in counterterrorism efforts, most recently by exaggerating the extent to which ISIS had established cohorts in Afghanistan –perhaps in an attempt to bolster the legitimacy of its growing ties with the Taliban.
One can’t help but draw parallels with 1979, when the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan played up the threat posed to its communist government by the mujahiddin– which it prematurely claimed was backed by the US – in order to coax military support from an increasingly alarmed Soviet Union, which then proceeded to occupy Afghanistan in a decade-long invasion. In response to this, the Reagan administration used CIA resources to arm and train the mujahiddin through the 1980s, reasoning that the enemy of its enemy had the potential to be its friend.
Today, Russia is ostensibly subscribing to the same logic as it institutes channels of cooperation with the Taliban – which, in the first of many ironies, is the spawn of the mujahiddin that precipitated the disastrous end of the Soviet invasion. However, speculation abounds about whether it is truly ISIS that the Afghan Taliban considers enemy number 1, since the group is also openly and vociferously opposed to President Ashraf Ghani’s US-backed government.  Russia has to have been cognisant of this, especially in light of the truce called between the two militant outfits in August last year, when both dedicated their resources to fighting US-backed Afghan troops instead of each other.
 
Confusion prevails
In fact, Taliban leaders have countered the notion that Russian support was aimed at fighting ISIS, with one senior leader saying, “We had a common enemy. We needed support to get rid of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and Russia wanted all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible.” Another affirmed, “… when Russia began supporting us, ISIS didn’t exist anywhere in the world.  Their sole purpose was to strengthen us against the US and its allies.”
This argument holds some merit. In a statement before the Armed Services Committee, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, argued that “Russia has become more assertive over the past year, overtly lending legitimacy to the Taliban to undermine NATO efforts and bolster belligerents using the false narrative that only the Taliban are fighting ISIL-K (ISIS).” He further argued that the narrative of a formidable Islamic state in the region is propped on shaky legs, given that Afghan ISIS forces, or the ISIL-K, have been well contained by US operations termed ‘Green Sword’ (which killed a third of ISIL-K troops). He also points out that the outfit is largely cut off from the caliphate itself, and is composed primarily of former Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Afghan Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders who have managed to seize slices of territory.
 
The tables have turned
Clearly, Russian intentions behind supporting the Taliban are linked to broader geopolitical concerns – especially its negotiating power with the US. This resurgent Afghan conflict between the US and Russia is not only a call back to the Great Game, but also mirrors the one between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, with one crucial difference: the tables have now turned.
It cannot be denied that Russia is seeking to expand its influence around the globe; Russian president Vladimir Putin’s administration has been pushing aggressive rearmament programs, armed conflicts (such as the 1999 Chechen war, the 2014 annexation of Crimea, and airpower-fueled military engagement in Syria in 2015 and 2016) and alleged cyber attacks (such as the ones on US political databases in 2016). He has successfully leveraged all these methods to not only secure his domestic influence but also make Russia a key stakeholder in major international discussions.
By making itself indispensable to any conversation surrounding Afghanistan, Russia can ensure that the US won’t be able to extricate itself from the longest war in its history without Russian help. This would give Russia much greater latitude in negotiations with the US or NATO, especially regarding the easing of heavy sanctions imposed upon it in the aftermath of the Crimea annexation. It is also highly likely that Russia is carving out a front-and-centre seat in all conversations regarding Afghanistan’s future stability and preparing to take over the role of political climate regulator, at a time when the US features an administration disinclined to provide unconditional support to allied governments and threats from insurgent and terrorist organisations continue to rise.
Russia also sees its hegemonic status in Central Asia losing ground to South Asia or China, and is perhaps attempting to counter this.
 
Rivalries not unlikely
Central Asian countries have rich natural gas reserves and are actively seeking to diversify export portfolios by finding new markets to sell to, especially in South Asia. Since one of the most lucrative export routes goes through Afghanistan, control of this route would allow Russia to interrupt energy-resource flows out of the region and maintain a hold on these resources. Additionally, China has been consolidating economic control over Central Asia – China expert Raffaello Pantucci writes that “[Central Asian] markets are full of Chinese products, infrastructure is heavily built by Chinese firms with Chinese loans, leadership visits – either Chinese to the region or regional to China– are followed by announcements of massive deals being signed, and increasingly China is playing a more prominent role in regional security questions.” A growth in Russian military presence in the region will help Moscow counter the effects of Chinese economic dominance, especially by making Central Asia more dependent on Russia in regional security matters.
However, it is imperative that Moscow remembers that the outcome of any engagement with groups such as the Taliban is notoriously difficult to predict. While such association may prove fruitful in the short term – perhaps by eradicating all hope of US reconciliation with the Taliban, making US disengagement from the region far more complicated an endeavour or leveraging the possibility of these two outcomes to get what it wants in other arenas – Russia would do well to learn from the mistakes of the US in the 1980s. Russia should realise that in the long-term, such an arrangement could worsen the already high-octane terrorism landscape and create a hydra that will grow increasingly invincible with each misguided effort to end it, making comprehensive control of the region next to impossible.
 
Tanya Rohatgi is a student of international relations at Ashoka University, and a former intern at Carnegie India and The Wire.

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Donald Trump is worried about his first hundred days
Kevin Drum
 
I love this tweet:  “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, and  it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!”
Trump, of course, has accomplished virtually nothing so far. He’s issued a few executive orders that are mostly small beer, and signed a few bills that rescinded some of Obama’s executive orders. That’s it.  His health care bill was a fiasco. He hasn’t gotten funding for his wall. His immigration order crashed and burned. He has no tax plan. He has no plan to destroy ISIS.
But there’s a silver lining here. As always, today’s tweet should be read as an alert aimed at his base. He’s telling them that in a few days they’ll see a lot of stories saying he’s accomplished nothing. In fact, less than nothing, since the government might well be headed for a shutdown by the end of next week. But it’s all lies! Clearly he’s concerned about this.
That should give Democrats an opening. Try to strike a budget deal before next week’s deadline. Agree to support some money for Trump’s wall in return for making Obamacare’s CSR appropriation automatic.1 This would be good for Trump in two ways. First, he gets to say that he’s started building the wall. Second, Obamacare doesn’t collapse on his watch, and agreeing to the CSR appropriation doesn’t do anything to stop him from trying to repeal and replace Obamacare later. It just ensures that it will work in the meantime.
In return, Democrats don’t really get anything. Agreeing to funding for the wall is unpopular with their base, and CSR funding is something that only a few wonks care about. Keeping the CSR money flowing would help insurance companies and it would help actual people, but politically it does nothing much for Democrats.
It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? I assume Trump is unwilling to make this deal. I don’t know why, since it seems almost entirely favourable to him. But he won’t do it. Maybe Democrats wouldn’t do it either. Is the art of the deal really that dead in Congress these days?
1CSR stands for Cost Sharing and Reduction. It is money paid to insurance companies to reduce deductibles and co-pays for low-income families. It’s been the subject of a long-running court fight, and insurers are justifiably worried about whether they’re going to receive the money they’ve been promised.

Comment

Kevin Drum
 
I love this tweet:  “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, and  it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!”
Trump, of course, has accomplished virtually nothing so far. He’s issued a few executive orders that are mostly small beer, and signed a few bills that rescinded some of Obama’s executive orders. That’s it.  His health care bill was a fiasco. He hasn’t gotten funding for his wall. His immigration order crashed and burned. He has no tax plan. He has no plan to destroy ISIS.
But there’s a silver lining here. As always, today’s tweet should be read as an alert aimed at his base. He’s telling them that in a few days they’ll see a lot of stories saying he’s accomplished nothing. In fact, less than nothing, since the government might well be headed for a shutdown by the end of next week. But it’s all lies! Clearly he’s concerned about this.
That should give Democrats an opening. Try to strike a budget deal before next week’s deadline. Agree to support some money for Trump’s wall in return for making Obamacare’s CSR appropriation automatic.1 This would be good for Trump in two ways. First, he gets to say that he’s started building the wall. Second, Obamacare doesn’t collapse on his watch, and agreeing to the CSR appropriation doesn’t do anything to stop him from trying to repeal and replace Obamacare later. It just ensures that it will work in the meantime.
In return, Democrats don’t really get anything. Agreeing to funding for the wall is unpopular with their base, and CSR funding is something that only a few wonks care about. Keeping the CSR money flowing would help insurance companies and it would help actual people, but politically it does nothing much for Democrats.
It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? I assume Trump is unwilling to make this deal. I don’t know why, since it seems almost entirely favourable to him. But he won’t do it. Maybe Democrats wouldn’t do it either. Is the art of the deal really that dead in Congress these days?
1CSR stands for Cost Sharing and Reduction. It is money paid to insurance companies to reduce deductibles and co-pays for low-income families. It’s been the subject of a long-running court fight, and insurers are justifiably worried about whether they’re going to receive the money they’ve been promised.

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(0)



A new study: Facebook is making people crazy
Kevin Drum and Mother Jones
 
Matt Yglesias says Mark Zuckerberg could do the world a favour by deep-sixing Facebook.
He bases his call to action on research like this:
Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.
This particular study is prospective and longitudinal: it begins with a group of people and follows them for a couple of years. The benefit of this is that you get more than a mere association. If all you had was a set of data showing that (a) Facebook use is (b) correlated with poor mental health, you’d have no way of knowing if A causes B or B causes A.
This longitudinal data still doesn’t answer the question conclusively.  It could be that as people become depressed, they spend more time on Facebook. In fact, maybe without Facebook they would have gotten even more depressed. Who knows? You’d almost literally need to track day-by-day mental health and Facebook use to find out.
But I’m totally willing to believe that Facebook is evil even without hard evidence. The casually brutal insults almost certainly outweigh the praise for a lot of people. It instills a sense of always needing to keep up with things every minute of the day. It interferes with real-life relationships. It takes time away from more concentrated activities that are probably more rewarding in the long run.
This doesn’t apply to all Facebook users. In fact, I’d guess that it applies to only 10-15 percent of them. But that’s enough.
It doesn’t matter, of course. Mark Zuckerberg surely disagrees, and anyway, he couldn’t shut down Facebook even if he wanted to. He may nominally control the company, but shareholders still have rights.  Preventing the CEO from blowing up the company because he’s feeling guilty about something is certainly one of them.
On the other hand, perhaps we could at least set an age limit for Facebook. If you aren’t allowed to drink before age 21, surely you shouldn’t be allowed to use social media either. I’d bet the latter is more dangerous than the former.

Comment

Kevin Drum and Mother Jones
 
Matt Yglesias says Mark Zuckerberg could do the world a favour by deep-sixing Facebook.
He bases his call to action on research like this:
Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.
This particular study is prospective and longitudinal: it begins with a group of people and follows them for a couple of years. The benefit of this is that you get more than a mere association. If all you had was a set of data showing that (a) Facebook use is (b) correlated with poor mental health, you’d have no way of knowing if A causes B or B causes A.
This longitudinal data still doesn’t answer the question conclusively.  It could be that as people become depressed, they spend more time on Facebook. In fact, maybe without Facebook they would have gotten even more depressed. Who knows? You’d almost literally need to track day-by-day mental health and Facebook use to find out.
But I’m totally willing to believe that Facebook is evil even without hard evidence. The casually brutal insults almost certainly outweigh the praise for a lot of people. It instills a sense of always needing to keep up with things every minute of the day. It interferes with real-life relationships. It takes time away from more concentrated activities that are probably more rewarding in the long run.
This doesn’t apply to all Facebook users. In fact, I’d guess that it applies to only 10-15 percent of them. But that’s enough.
It doesn’t matter, of course. Mark Zuckerberg surely disagrees, and anyway, he couldn’t shut down Facebook even if he wanted to. He may nominally control the company, but shareholders still have rights.  Preventing the CEO from blowing up the company because he’s feeling guilty about something is certainly one of them.
On the other hand, perhaps we could at least set an age limit for Facebook. If you aren’t allowed to drink before age 21, surely you shouldn’t be allowed to use social media either. I’d bet the latter is more dangerous than the former.

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(0)



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