April 8, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


Trump's Options for North Korea Include Placing Nukes in South Korea (WILLIAM M. ARKIN, CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, KEVIN MONAHAN and ROBERT WINDREM, 4/08/17, NBC News)

Another option is to target and kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other senior leaders in charge of the country's missiles and nuclear weapons and decision-making. Adopting such an objective has huge downsides, said Lippert, who also served as an assistant defense secretary under President Barack Obama.

"Discussions of regime change and decapitation...tend to cause the Chinese great pause of concern and tends to have them move in the opposite direction we would like them to move in terms of pressure," he said.

Basically, if we regime change Syria, North Korea and the PRC our work is nearly all done.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Iraq's Shiite cleric Sadr urges Assad to step down (AFP April 8, 2017)

The young Najaf-based Shiite cleric condemned the killing of 87 people, including 31 children, in a suspected chemical attack last week in a rebel-held Syrian town that has been widely blamed on Damascus.

"I would consider it fair for President Bashar Assad to resign and leave power, allowing the dear people of Syria to avoid the scourge of war and terrorist oppression," he said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


DUKE ELLINGTON'S FAITH (Ted Gioia, April 2017, First Things)

Yet there was another side of Duke Ellington, pious and even prim. "I'd be afraid to sit in a house with people who don't believe," he once remarked. "Afraid the house would fall down." Ellington's biographer Terry Teachout tells us that the bandleader engaged in "daily Bible study and private prayer in hotel and dressing rooms." Ellington's son, Mercer, has noted that his father was "so religious . . . anything that downed religion had to be wrong." The musician's sister, Ruth, went so far as to claim that the whole Ellington mystique was based on the "philosophy of life in which he profoundly believed, namely Christianity."

Ellington's religious sensibilities took on greater prominence in his music during his later years. At age fifty-eight, he invited gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to record with his band, and Ellington was so delighted with the resulting version of his hymn "Come Sunday," performed mostly unaccompanied, that he brought Jackson back to the studio the next day to sing it again--not for the record, but just for him. For this follow-up rendition, never released, Duke had the lights turned off in the studio, and required his band to sit quietly in attendance like parishioners in a darkened church.

Jackson herself later noted that no rehearsal was held for this collaboration with the famous bandleader, and when she requested more guidance on one track, he simply advised her: "Just open the Bible and sing." In his autobiography, Ellington admitted that "this encounter with Mahalia Jackson had a strong influence on me and my sacred music." Irving Townsend, Ellington's producer at the session, said, "Duke treated this first performance like a kind of divine revelation."

This new phase in Ellington's music reached its peak seven years later when he gave his first "Sacred Concert" at the newly completed Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. It's hard to exaggerate how much importance Ellington assigned to this event. A surviving film, available on YouTube, captures some of the music and behind-the-scenes activity of the concert. Ellington can be heard declaring that this is "the most important statement I've ever made."

Ellington would go on to present follow-up Sacred Concerts with new music at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York (1968) and at Westminster Abbey (1973). Ellington would die exactly five months after this last performance. He already knew he had cancer in both lungs when he mounted this final testimony to his faith, which was built around the theme of love.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


'How dare you work on whites': Professors under fire for research on white mortality (Jeff Guo, April 6, 2017, Washington Post)

Guo: I think the controversy may have less to do with your papers, and more to do with how the media seized these facts and amplified them -- in a way that I've not seen done with science research in a long time.

Case: It's not as much news if people's mortality rates are falling the way you would hope they are falling. What seems like news is when mortality has stopped falling, and no one has noticed that it has stopped.

White Americans had just flatlined where the European countries continued to make progress, and where other groups in this country -- African Americans and Hispanics -- continued to make progress. So what the heck is going on here? We weren't making progress anymore. That, to us seemed like the bigger story.

Deaton: Anne presented the first paper once and was told, in no uncertain terms: How dare you work on whites.

Case: I was really beaten up.

Deaton: And these were really senior people.

Case: Very senior people.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


63 Hours: From Chemical Attack to Trump's Strike in Syria (MICHAEL D. SHEAR and MICHAEL R. GORDON, 4/08/17, NY Times)

Aides say Mr. Trump was determined to display some form of strength...

Obviously the need to try and appear strong is the opposite of being strong, but, even more revealing, when President Carter launched Desert Storm we were at least accidentally communicating over open channels (which the Israelis jammed for us), by warning Russia the Administration effectively warned Assad.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


In South Korea, Democracy's Thumping Triumph : The arrest of South Korean President Park Geun-hye reflects a new unity among a majority of Koreans. (Diana Won, 4/07/17, Pacific Standard)

In important ways, Park's presidency, which began in 2012 when she secured a victory with a slim majority of just north of 50 percent of the vote, was a continuation of Koreans' long-held trust in a human rights-economic development trade-off. Initially, citizens wanted a leader who could guide them through the lingering global financial crisis of 2008, and they thought that Park, like her authoritarian father before her, could do exactly that. But over the course of her presidency, there grew a change of political heart among the citizenry, who, for the past several years now, have sought an out from Korea's decades-long rule by military dictatorship.

As a result, the recent candlelight protests mark a historic moment for Koreans, who not only succeeded in influencing National Assembly members to vote for impeachment on December 16th, but who also saw the Constitutional Court, in turn, unanimously uphold their decision on March 10th. For one of the first times in Korea's relatively young and wobbly democracy, protests had been wielded as a peaceful tool to shift public policy. As conservative and far-right populist movements gain traction throughout the U.S. and parts of Western Europe, many have questioned whether liberal democracy is dead. In South Korea, however, after 10 years of corrupt conservative rule, Moon Jae-in, the leader of the liberal Democratic party, won party nomination this week and is favored to win the upcoming election.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Lessons of an Awkward Seder : Last year, I invited Iraqi immigrants to a Passover meal at my home in Augusta, Maine. The experience showed me the true meaning of the holiday. (Erica Asch, April 7, 2017, Tablet)

At the very beginning of the Seder we read, "Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and share the Pesach meal." That line has always chided me because I can't recall ever inviting a stranger or someone who was truly hungry or in need to my Passover Seder. Every year, my table fills up with a combination of Jewish and non-Jewish friends and family, a comfortable group of well educated, mainly white, native-born Americans who relive the Passover experience as a theoretical journey, not a remembered past.

Last year, my husband and I decided to change this by inviting Zamat, the leader of Augusta's Iraqi community, to come to our family's Seder with five members of his community. Although Maine is among the least diverse states in the nation, the capital Augusta has attracted an increasing number of Muslim immigrants in recent years many of whom are from Iraq, and some from Syria and Afghanistan. As the rabbi of the city's only synagogue, Temple Beth El, I have worked with my fellow clergy to welcome these newcomers and help them adjust to life in central Maine, especially in the face of prejudice.

Instead of enjoying a familiar tradition with people we knew, we struggled through an awkward evening. Although we had previously met Zamat and his two children, the other two guests were complete strangers, and neither of them spoke any English. We modified the Hagaddah to include simpler English, but we ended up abandoning the written text in favor of on-the-spot explanations of what we were doing and why. Cell phone conversations interrupted our evening several times. The food, with the exception of matzo and citrus fruits, was not well received.

The experience was a surprising reminder of how difficult it is to live out the words and values of our tradition of welcoming. But there also were many highlights. The chorus of "Dayenu" was a big hit--our guests reminded us that dai means enough in Arabic.One participant shared his experiences visiting Egypt. Others asked thoughtful questions: Why is matzo flat? Do you have a meal like this for many other nights? Do you usually sit on the floor? The experience left me pondering: What is the true purpose of the Seder?

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Failed Health Bill Fuels New Momentum for Expanding Medicaid : In the days since Republicans killed their health-care plan, support for one of Obamacare's central policies has grown in states where the GOP has stunted it for years. (MATTIE QUINN | MARCH 29, 2017, Governing)

Medicaid historically had been reserved for only the poorest and sickest, but the ACA opened it up to the lower middle class. States that expanded the program have experienced many benefits. For example, uninsured rates dropped -- dramatically in some states -- as did uncompensated care.

"Medicaid is such a fabric on the health system. Now, there are very few -- if any -- policy reasons not to expand," says Adam Searing, associate professor at Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families.

Medicaid expansion has been a highly partisan issue. But the debate at the federal level has revealed that there's more bipartisan support -- among voters and policymakers -- for expanding Medicaid than previously thought. Republican governors arguably scored the biggest win with the demise of Paul Ryan's plan because now they will likely take less political heat for expanding Medicaid and can claim credit for insuring more of their residents.

With the ACA here to stay for the foreseeable future, Searing notes four states worth keeping an eye on: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. Once one of those states expand Medicaid, "then the dam breaks," he says.