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Donald Trump’s weakness is policy

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The Resistance is now on offense. Democrats’ takeover of the House gives President Donald Trump’s opponents something they haven’t had till now: the power to force Trump to respond to them rather than being forced to respond to Trump.

But it also gives Trump something he hasn’t had since taking office: a political opposition with power, with leaders, with legislation he can attack. Trump has never liked negotiating the details of policy or overseeing the nuts and bolts of governance. Now he’s freed from the drag of signing and defending bills crafted in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office.

This is why the president, in his post-election press conference, sounded almost happy to have lost the House.

Reflecting on the prospect of Democrats investigating him and him retaliating by investigating them, Trump was cheerful. “It will probably be very good for me politically,” he said. “I can see it being extremely good politically. I think that I am better at that game then they are, actually. But we will find out.”

A Democratic House permits Trump to engage in a politics of pure confrontation, which is the politics he prefers, and arguably the politics in which he thrives.

“During the 2016 campaign, we noticed this paradox,” says Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff to vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, and was a top advisor to Hillary Clinton. “If you came at Trump on the stuff where you thought he’d be most vulnerable — his shitty business practices, his use of non-American workers — he was at his best. He knows that stuff.”

Trump’s weakness, Klain continued, was policy. “When you came at him on that stuff he was horrible.”

This proved true in 2018. As abnormal as American politics has felt in these past few years, House Democrats ran a fundamentally normal campaign, and it worked. They ran ads about protecting people with preexisting conditions and working on behalf of the middle class. They released their “Better Deal” agenda, a policy platform that ranged from raising the minimum wage to strengthening labor unions to investing in broadband to making campaign finance more transparent.


Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer Holds News Conference To Discuss Proposal To Protect Those With Pre-Existing Conditions

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

They did not, as a party, run on investigating or impeaching Trump. They did not, as a party, run on abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement or passing Medicare-for-all. They did not, as a party, offer an equal but opposite reaction to Trump. Their campaign seemed to exist in an alternative universe, one where Jeb Bush had been elected president and had repealed Obamacare, and where few had ever heard the words “Russia” or “Mueller.”

They won. The question is whether they have the discipline, or even the power, to hold to that strategy outside of an election.

Why Democrats ran on policy, but might govern through investigation

If you want to see why Democrats ran the campaign they did in 2018, read the exit polls.

A majority of voters thought the Mueller investigation “politically motivated” rather than “mostly justified.” A larger majority opposed impeaching Trump. Perhaps most worrying for Democrats who want to focus on Trump’s ugliest affronts, 33 percent of voters thought Trump’s immigration policies were “about right,” and another 17 percent wanted to see them toughened; only 46 percent thought Trump had gone too far.


CNN exit polls

And remember: These are exit polls from the 2018 House election. These are exit polls measuring an electorate that voted overwhelmingly for Democrats.

In a fascinating postmortem on House Democrats’ strategy, the New York Times reports that the House Majority PAC “carried out two intensive research projects, studying right-of-center suburban voters and blue-collar whites who supported Mr. Trump. It concluded that only a message about health care and jobs could win over both groups.”

So that’s the campaign House Democrats ran. Discipline was the watchword. Pelosi, when confronted with something of importance to progressives but of danger to her message, became fond of saying, “Those things are in our DNA, but they are not in our talking points.”

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM), who ran the Democrats’ campaign efforts, was even more explicit. “Every time he would say something or tweet something, it would come back: ‘We need to come right back at him! Define him!’” Lujan told the Times. “We would say: Look, we don’t need to talk about him, he’s going to do it himself. We need to continue to have a conversation with the American people about kitchen-table issues.”

But message discipline is easier when you’re running paid ads than when you’re fighting to get coverage in a media environment tuned to Trump’s antics and hungry for high-stakes confrontations. House Democrats will be able to pass bills, but they won’t be able to force the Senate to take those bills up, much less demand Trump sign them. And the media rarely covers bills that can’t pass.

What House Democrats can do is investigate, and so they will. “House Democrats plan to probe every aspect of President Trump’s life and work, from family business dealings to the Space Force to his tax returns to possible ‘leverage’ by Russia,” reports Axios, quoting one senior Democrat as saying they’re preparing a “subpoena cannon.”


House Intelligence Cmte Debates Release Of Democratic Rebuttal To Nunes Memo

Rep. Adam Schiff (L) (D-CA), the incoming chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, leaves a committee meeting at the U.S. Capitol.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The incentives are clear. Investigations are what their base wants them to do, and what the media will cover them doing, and what Trump is preparing for them to do.

Among House Democrats, this is a constant topic of conversation — and of concern. Beyond the Russia investigation lies shocking levels of administrative corruption. Constitutionally, it is part of their duty to provide oversight of an executive branch in sore need of it.

But they fear unleashing confrontations they can’t control. They fear a race for coverage in which any time a Democrats utters the word “impeachment” it makes headlines but their messaging, and legislating, on the minimum wage goes unnoticed. They can see that ambitious 2020 aspirants, like billionaire Tom Steyer, are already trying to lead an impeachment charge that has no chance in the Senate and could endanger a House majority that hinges on holding at least some districts Trump won.

“I think I’m the only member of the House or Senate who was involved in both the Nixon and Clinton impeachments,” says Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who worked as a staffer on the Judiciary Committee during Watergate and was elected to Congress in 1995. “If Mueller sends us an exploding bomb we may have an obligation to deal with that. But absent that, I don’t think the country will be on board with impeachment and nor should we.”

The problem, she says, is that impeachment, and the spiraling investigations that lead to it, keep the entirety of attention on the Trump circus.

“Trump’s sideshow has an audience,” she continues. “We magnify that audience when we pay attention to that rather than what matters to people.”

Trump’s weakness is policy. Can Democrats exploit it?

Talking in terms of sideshows and audience and attention is a reminder that the question isn’t just what Democrats do — it’s what the public sees them doing. And that means it revolves around what the media focuses on. If Democrats are passing bills over here and pursuing impeachment over there, the bills will be ignored. And every single day they will be competing for control of the media’s agenda with Trump, and Trump’s Twitter feed.

If Democrats are going to gave any chance of controlling their message, it will require an almost inhuman level of discipline.

Klain, the Democratic strategist, offered an unexpected piece of counsel to his party the day after the election. “However tempting it might be for freshly empowered congressional Columbos,” Klain wrote in the Washington Post, “not a single subpoena should fly in the first 100 days.”

Instead, Klain wrote, House Democrats should spend their first 100 days passing big pieces of legislation that would force Trump to choose between his populist posturing and Republican orthodoxy: a $15 minimum wage, an expansion of the Affordable Care Act, a serious infrastructure bill.

When we spoke, Klain said he offered this advice for a few reasons. First, he said, “Democrats need to make it unquestionably clear to the American people that their first priority is helping the country, not damaging Trump.”

Klain served in both the Clinton and Obama administration, and both administrations offer a cautionary tale to House Democrats who believe a strategy of maximum confrontation will rid them of Trump in 2020. Both Clinton and Obama lost the House in their first midterm election, with approval ratings very much like Trump’s now. Both then faced a House Republican majority with no agenda other than their destruction. And both were able to pivot off that opposition to reelection, as voters grew exhausted and disillusioned with a Republican Party that seemed interested in nothing but the next campaign.


John Boehner Holds Weekly Press Briefing At Capitol

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Second, Trump is at his weakest on policy, in part because he understands it so poorly, and in part because it puts him crosswise with his own party.

“Trump’s problem has always been that he’d be happy to cut a deal, but every time he tries to do it, his own party holds him back,” Klain said. “He doesn’t understand the policy issues, and he’s intimidated by his party. He doesn’t want to cross them. And do you think Mitch McConnell will slam a $15 minimum wage bill through the Senate?”

Political confrontations often leave Trump polarizing, but clearly in control. Policy confrontations, on the other hand, tend to leave him looking overmatched. He seems less like a tough-talking populist than an in-over-his-head plutocrat (“nobody knew that health care could be so complicated”).

That isn’t to say Democrats shouldn’t investigate Trump, says Klain. They should. They just need to take the time to get it right. “Having worked on the Hill, it takes time to do oversight well. Who are the right witnesses? What are the right facts? What are the right documents? They need to hire staff. They need to get prepared.”

“Look at the Republicans,” continues Klain. “They’d do a hearing that they weren’t ready for. Then they’d need to do a second hearing to make up the first one. Trump is at his most dangerous is when you shoot at him and miss. You need to have it nailed.”

Investigations, if done right and chosen well, can also support a broader policy argument. “There’s a lot of revelations about ways the Trump administration has enriched itself at the expense of people,” says Ben Wikler, the Washington director of MoveOn.org. “Those are bread-and-butter politics in any era, but there’s a lot more bread and a lot more butter under Trump. The point of oversight is is to show whose side Trump is on.”

To Wikler, the investigations strategy and the policy strategy are more unified than people give them credit for. There’s already a Mueller investigation, he told me. Democrats don’t need to replicate it. What they need to do is use investigations to break Trump’s claims to populism, and his control over the news cycle.

“Think about Scott Pruitt,” says Wikler. “Every time a new soundproof booth or insanely expensive tactical pants became known, people were talking about the corruption of Trump’s EPA chief rather than whatever Trump tweeted that morning.”

Will any Democratic plan survive first contact with Trump?

In the final weeks before the election, the Washington Post and the New York Times ran more than 115 stories about a slow-moving caravan of Honduran asylum seekers that was more than 1,000 miles from the US border.

“Many of these articles are, on their own merits, laudable,” wrote Media Matters’s Matt Gertz in a thoughtful analysis. “They provide the compelling stories of the migrants themselves, debunk the president’s lies and conspiracy theories, and point to the facts that undermine his demagoguery. But the sheer volume of the coverage can’t help but fuel Trump’s claims that the caravan’s approach represents a crisis and suck oxygen away from other stories in the lead-up to the midterm elections.”

Why did the media converge on caravan coverage? Because Trump began tweeting about it in outrageous, offensive, bizarre ways. Much of the media’s coverage focused on debunking or complicating Trump’s narrative, but in letting that coverage reach saturation levels, the media let Trump control the narrative, and push dozens of worthier stories out of the headlines.

Most politicians try to distract from controversial stories by turning the media’s attention to positive stories. Trump distracts the media’s attention from controversial stories by turning its attention to other controversial stories — the ones that he thinks serve his purposes.

Consider what he’s done in just the few days since the election. He’s fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him, perhaps unconstitutionally, with an unqualified loyalist. He signed a proclamation overhauling asylum rules. He took away a CNN reporter’s White House press pass and tweeted a misleading video of the confrontation.

Trump doesn’t want to talk about infrastructure or raising the minimum wage. He wants politics consumed by the confrontations he prefers, the ones that mobilize his supporters. He doesn’t know how to govern the country. But he does know how to govern our attention. He does know how to manipulate the media.

The question for any strategy House Democrats might pursue is whether they can hold the media and the public’s focus amidst Trump shouting and tweeting and waving his arms for everyone to look over there!

Democrats’ best shot is to go big on policy

In an interview the day after the election with Rolling Stone, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pointed out how easily Trump was retaking control of the agenda:

I would just reiterate that Trump knows how to manipulate the media and that it’s not an accident that he fired Sessions today, not tomorrow, not the next day. Because he wanted to divert attention from what happened Tuesday night.

Sanders’s answer to this? “I believe it’s terribly important that the Democrats come out of the gate full-steam ahead and start passing really good legislation that puts Trump and the Republicans on the defensive,” he said.

Sanders is one of the few politicians in Washington who can match Trump’s talent for driving media attention to the topics he cares about, and he does it, again and again, by going big, by crafting massive proposals that may not be able to pass but can inspire.


Bernie Sanders Discusses Medicare For All Bill In San Francisco

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It was telling, two weeks before the election, that the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers brought out a bizarre and widely panned report attacking socialism in general, and Medicare-for-all in particular. It was a rare instance of the White House responding to Democrats — particularly Sanders — rather than the other way around.

What Sanders understands, and what Trump understands, is that you don’t shape attention by crafting compromise policies, you shape attention by creating controversy. Trump does it, well, the way Trump does it. Sanders does it by using big, controversial policies to draw contrasts and start fights.

Now Sanders is urging House Democrats to orient their health care push around an expansion of Medicare that there’s no way Senate Republicans would touch, but that would be a big enough fight for the media to cover, and that would either force Trump to break with McConnell and the Senate Republicans or to show himself up as a phony populist. That’s a very different strategy than where House Democrats seem to be going, which is a package of technocratic, and negotiable, proposals to lower drug prices.

“The challenge Democrats have is that Trump does not negotiate in good faith or follow through on commitments in good faith,” says Wikler. “As much as Democrats like to pass laws that make people’s lives better, to do so involves making devil’s bargains with a devil who lives up to his reputation.”

Wikler worries that Democrats will get caught in negotiations with Trump where they make painful compromises for deals that Trump abandons as soon as he sees them panned on Fox & Friends — and so they’ll end up discouraging their base, and helping no one.

“Democrats absolutely should pass a $15 minimum wage bill through the House,” he says. “What they shouldn’t do is negotiate significant compromises with Trump on issues that matter to them in order to get a minimum wage bill through.”

To fight and win against Trump, Democrats are going to have to force Trump to engage on the policy issues where he’s weak, and that means forcing the media and the public’s focus on to issues he doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to talk about, and being disciplined about which of his provocations to respond to. This will be an era of conflict, not compromise. It will be a war for something Trump understands, and Democrats typically don’t: attention. They’re going to have to figure it out quick.

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11 Exercises to Fix Rounded Shoulders and Sculpt Beautiful Posture

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Modern life takes its toll on our posture when we spend hours sitting and neglect the position of our spine. Poor posture leads to an imbalance in our muscles which means that they can’t support the body properly. Luckily, this can be fixed by doing a set of effective exercises. Moreover, they can help you to reduce back pain, stop headaches, increase energy, and improve circulation and digestion.

Bright Side is ready to help our readers achieve a beautiful and healthy body, and found 11 simple exercises that can be done at home by anyone. At the end we included a small tip, as a bonus for those who enjoy massage.

1. Upper trapezius stretch

It’s better to start from your shoulders first to relax your upper muscles. An upper trapezius stretch is just perfect for this.

Initial position: For this exercise, you can stand or sit on your yoga mat, whatever you like. Keep your head straight.

What to do:

  • Slowly move your right ear toward your right shoulder. When you do this, it’s normal that your left shoulder might lift as well. If it does, bring your head back to the initial position and try to relax your left shoulder.
  • Put your right hand over your head and place it on your left cheekbone. Don’t push your head down with it, it should just lie there. This will stretch your upper trapezius muscles very gently.
  • Calmly breathe and sit in this position for 30 seconds.
  • Slowly remove your hand, come back to the initial position and repeat the same on the other side.

2. Superman

The Superman exercise engages your upper and lower back. It helps you fight lower back pain and prevents a curved spine.

Initial position: Lie face down on your stomach, on your yoga mat.

What to do:

  • Extend your arms and legs. Keep your neck neutral.
  • Keep your torso stationary and lift your arms and legs up toward the ceiling. Try forming a “U” shape with your body.
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds, lower your arms and legs, and go back to the initial position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

3. Bridge

The bridge works out glutes and strengthens the lower back, which is important for good posture.

Initial position: Lie on your yoga mat, bend your knees, and place your feet hip-width apart. Place your arms by your sides.

What to do:

  • Engage your buttocks and raise them up, creating a straight line with your body. Your shoulders should be on the floor.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds and slowly lower your body back to the initial position.
  • Repeat 15-20 times. Give yourself a rest for 30 seconds after every 5 reps.

4. Reverse shoulder stretch

This is an effective exercise to stretch your back and shoulder muscles and remove tension and pain in them.

Initial position: Stand on a yoga mat, with your feet wider than your shoulders, place your straightened hands behind you, and lock your palms together.

What to do:

  • Bring your shoulder blades together and start putting your arms up. Try to feel the tension in your spine and shoulder muscles.
  • For more spine stretch bend forward and bring your locked hands up. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds.
  • Slowly return back to the initial position.
  • Repeat 20 times.

5. Foam roller exercise for upper back

A foam roller will help you to relieve pain in your back muscles, fix rounded shoulders, and improve your overall posture.

Initial position: Get a yoga mat and lie on it with your hips apart and your feet on the floor. Place your foam roller right under your upper middle back, in your shoulder blade area.

What to do:

  • Bring your hands behind your head, this will support it. Bring your hips into a bridge pose, and hold your balance, supporting your body with your legs.
  • Inhale, push your body from your heels, and roll on your spine. Stop when the roller reaches the top of your shoulder blades.
  • Exhale and roll back until the roller reaches the bottom if your rib cage.
  • Repeat this for 30-45 seconds.

6. Cat-cow exercise

The cat-cow exercise is perfect for stretching your back, lower spine, and core muscles.

Initial position: Stand on all fours on the yoga mat, place your hands right under your shoulders, and knees and feet hip-width apart. Keep your toes pointing toward your body. Your spine should be natural and straight, no bending or arching.

What to do:

  • Cat position: exhale and engage your abdominal muscles. Arch your spine up toward the ceiling, bringing your head to your chest, aligned with your spine. Hold this for 10 seconds.
  • Cow position: slowly start bringing your stomach toward the floor and try to feel the tension in your lower back. Bring your shoulder blades together. Hold this for 10 seconds and go back to the initial position.
  • Repeat 15 times.

7. Kneeling hip-flexor stretch

The kneeling hip flexor stretch will help to remove tension from your pelvic and lower back muscles.

Initial position: Kneel on a yoga mat, bring your right leg in front of you, and bend it at a 90 degree angle. Your foot is flat on the ground. Support yourself by standing on your left knee that is also bent at 90 degrees.

What to do:

  • Slowly start bringing your right knee forward and brace your core. Engage your glutes and keep bringing your hips forward.
  • Your left knee is already bent at more than 90 degrees. Keep your spine straight, don’t bend it forward or backward.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds to feel the stretch in the muscles then slowly return to the initial position.
  • Repeat 10 times for both sides.

8. Bird dog exercise

Bird dog helps to remove back pain, strengthens the core, and promotes proper posture.

Initial position: Stand on all fours on the yoga mat, your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Your spine should be straight and neutral.

What to do:

  • Raise your right hand and your left leg at the same time, bringing them parallel to the floor.
  • As you do this, lengthen your neck and bring your chin to your chest. Look down at the floor and remain like this for 10 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position and then repeat the same exercise with your left hand and right leg.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.

9. Forearm plank

Plank is not only effective at burning fat, but it also helps to strengthen the spine muscles, it prevents back pain, and it helps to improve your posture.

Initial position: Place your forearms on the yoga mat and align your elbows below your shoulders. Your arms should be parallel to your body at about shoulder-width distance.

What to do:

  • You can clasp your hands together for more comfort. Correct your neck and spine by looking at one spot on the floor somewhere about 30 centimeters in front of your hands.
  • Pay attention, so that your head is in line with your back.
  • Hold this position for 20 seconds.

10. T-Spine windmill stretch

The t-spine windmill stretch can help you fight pain and tension in your lower back and trunk. Moreover, it works out your shoulder muscles.

Initial position: Lie on your side on a yoga mat and bend your knees and hips at 90 degrees. Extend and stack your arms together on your right side.

What to do:

  • Raise your left arm up and then place it out to the left, opening your body up. Right now, your shoulder blades should be on the floor and your legs should remain in the same position.
  • Hold it for a couple of seconds and return to your initial position.
  • Do 30 repetitions on each side.

11. Tight shoulder massage

A simple tennis ball can help you to remove pain in your shoulders in different areas and relax them. All you need here is a tennis ball and a wall.

Initial position: Stand next to the wall and face it. Place a tennis ball on the wall and lean on it. Your chest should push the ball inside your shoulder.

What to do:

  • Start making a circular movement around this muscle and try to find a trigger point.
  • Hold a ball on this point until you feel that the tension and pain are gone.
  • Keep doing this until you relax all of your trigger points.
  • Repeat on the other shoulder.

Bonus: Thai massage is amazing for your back and shoulders.

Thai massage is an ancient form of massage that uses stretching and gentle pressure on the body to relieve muscle and joint pain, and balance your body. This massage helps to make muscles more flexible and removes chronic stiffness. For better results in achieving a healthy back and good posture, you can try this type of massage, focusing on your spine muscles.

Exercises can be effective, but it’s also important to pay attention to your posture throughout the day and strive to keep your spine straight. Do you have good posture? Maybe, you have a couple of exercises that help you relieve back and shoulder pain? Let’s share in the comments!

Illustrated by Alena Tsarkova and Marat Nugumanov for BrightSide.me

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8 Top Technology Trends To Watch In China

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This is a preview of 2019 Technology Trends Report in China from Business Insider Intelligence and EqualOcean. Chinese high tech firms have been leading the way in innovation for many technologies, such as 5G. These technologies are either currently undergoing or about to undergo major phases of change.

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Why Iran is attacking oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz

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The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway that lies between Iran and Oman. Dozens of tankers carry oil through the 21-mile-wide passage each day. This flow of oil represents 20 percent of the world’s supply.

Most of the tankers traveling through the Strait of Hormuz are bound for Asia. But an attack on any tanker there, regardless of its destination, can affect the price of oil everywhere. That’s because oil is a globally traded product — a drop in supply from the Persian Gulf can drive up prices from other sources around the world. After two tankers were attacked in June, the price of Brent Crude — oil sourced from the North Sea — jumped by nearly $2 per barrel.


The price of Brent crude, a global benchmark, jumped in response to the attack of two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

Vox/Danush Parvaneh

The attacks in June weren’t the only incidents in Hormuz in recent months. Several other oil tankers have been seized, attacked, and harassed. These tankers — and this narrow water passage — have become a center of conflict between the US and Iran. It’s a conflict with the potential to escalate in one of the world’s most important oil chokepoints, sending the global economy into a tailspin.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.

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