Let's Fix This Country
foreign policy

Iran: Edging Nearer the Brink of War

Trump should learn from the deal he tossed aside that replacing it will not be easy

It was one of his campaign promises — to get rid of “one of the worst negotiated deals of any kind that I have ever seen” — not that his base had ever asked for it. Itching to end the deal that put Iran's nuclear development on hold, after acquiescing to its continuance in two mandated quarterly reviews, President Trump in October 2017 decertified the inspection reports, setting in motion the abrogation of an agreement that had taken almost two years to negotiate.

His national security team had strongly recommended that he keep the U.S. in the

accord. In a statement that September, over 80 disarmament experts urged him to honor the U.S. pledge, calling the agreement a “net plus for international nuclear nonproliferation”. That the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which conducts non-proliferation nuclear inspections on site in Iran, had all along reported that Iran was in compliance with the terms of the pact was

of no moment to the president. Neither had he concern for the five nations — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China — who were allies with the U.S. in the deal and wanted, then and now, to preserve it. U.N. ambassador at the time Nikki Haley said at the United Nations, “This is about U.S. national security. This is not about European security. This is not about anyone else”, which left the five nations that…


Students Crushed by $1.56 Trillion Debt with No Help from Betsy DeVos

Over two years into the Trump administration, no steps have been taken to stem the constantly rising tide of student loan debt, which now stands at $1.56 trillion, up from $1.16 trillion just four years ago. The question is, how big a threat does the default rate on that debt pose for the national debt, already at $22 trillion, and American taxpayers who would ultimately foot the bill?

The Department of Education issues a report each year showing the default rate three years after a “cohort” enters the repayment stream. Its most recent report,
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

for the class of 2014, says that by 2017, 10.8% were in default. A serious number in dollars, but tolerable, one might reason.

But the department’s method of reporting raises a host of questions. First, only those who haven’t paid in 360 days are in that default percentage — an entire year before they are counted as a problem! That means an untold further percentage have begun not paying but haven’t yet hit the 360-day mark — a nascent problem kept hidden.

Additionally, about 20% of the 44.7 million Americans with student loan debt are in suspense. Temporarily out of work, or hit with an unexpected medical expense, or beset with an unaffordable monthly repayment relative to income, they have…

war plans

If Hostilities Break Out, Iran Controls the Geography »

The many provocations in recent weeks, capped by the downing of a costly drone, are sure to provoke a military response from the U.S. should Iran continue. We're full of bluster with Trump talking of "obliteration" and "end of Iran", but, having
Where the drone was brought down in the Gulf of Oman with the Straits of Hormuz to its west.

pulled back after the drone's loss, there will be pressure to respond militarily if an incident causes any loss of American life.

Trump wants to avoid war, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wants to use threats of military force only to drive Iran to new negotiations, we're told. But then there's National Security Adviser John Bolton, the sort who never wore a uniform but has no qualms about sending young Americans to risk their lives, war being his preferred diplomacy. And he wants to go all the way to regime…

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the law

Census Blocked, Trump Will Not Be Denied Immigrant Data

Donald Trump had insisted on having his own way, and no Supreme Court of the United States was going to get in that way. In his quest to reduce the American government to a single branch, with the other two just looking on, he rejected the court’s disallowing a question in the 2020 census that would ask every one of us if we are a citizen. The president took to Twitter, and with his peculiar chant at the end he seemed to say that the Supreme Court is not patriotic:

Changes in government practices need good reasons — the Administrative Procedure Act spells that out — and the high court found that Wilbur Ross and his Commerce Department, which runs the census, had effectively lied to the court about the reason for including the citizenship question. The justices ruled 5-to-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts the swing vote against the four to his right, that the stated reason for the question was "contrived" and "pretextual".

The Justice Department was put to work by Trump to find a way around the court's prohibition, even to the point of trying to swap in a whole new contingent of lawyers when the first group failed to come up with an end run. Ultimately they surrendered, finally perhaps realizing that any new rationale for their citizenship question would simply be viewed by the court as Contrived # 2.

But Trump needed cover for his retreat; it can never appear that he lost. So he… Read More »


We’re Getting Buried in Trash but Americans Are Oblivious

Devoted recycler? Sorry. It's just getting burned or buried

On the first day of 2018, China announced that it would no longer accept "loathsome foreign garbage". The world’s largest importer of trash had decided to deal instead with its own "towering mountains of waste”. Beginning in the 1990s, as it grew into an industrial behemoth, China would ultimately take in 40% of America’s plastic, glass, metals and waste paper to feed its insatiable demand for raw materials. It was cheap to ship in otherwise empty container
Trash-pickers in Turkey. An industry elsewhere, we don't want
that here, but waste is going out of control.

ships, returning to China after unloading the products into which the trash had been converted, and low-cost labor made it economical to sort the imperfectly separated shiploads coming from the U.S. into clean stocks. The U.S. and other countries shipped 106 million tons of plastic to China over the past 25 years. But what we were sending to China was so contaminated with so much trash and food that it had become an environmental matter, said the Chinese.

No easy answers

Americans barely knew that China was taking in our trash. Picked up at the curb, its disappearance from daily lives was and is taken for granted. That most now stays behind in the United States serves to make this country face up to a responsibility which global markets have allowed us to pass off to others. For as long as it is left to market forces, the problems will become formidable.

We think that the aluminum cans we toss in the proper bin after… Read More »

foreign policy

This Will Be Pompeo’s War. Congress Won’t Have a Say »

The Secretary of State becomes Secretary of War

The Trump administration is setting the stage to begin a war with Iran without the bother of obtaining the authorization of Congress, as the Constitution prescribes. Nothing else can explain the outlandish claims in briefings to members of Congress by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Pentagon that Iran is linked to al Qaeda.

What is that about? Just three days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress authorized the president to use military force “against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks…or harbored such organizations or persons”. That organization was quickly determined to be al Qaeda, and the AUMF, as the Authorization for Use of Military Force is commonly referred to, has been used since as justification for our wars-without-end throughout the Middle East.

Pompeo is now making the case in advance that war against Iran would…

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