January 7, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


Every American family basically pays an $8,000 'poll tax' under the U.S. health system, top economists say (Heather Long, Jan. 7, 2020, washington Post)

The U.S. health-care system is the most expensive in the world, costing about $1 trillion more per year than the next-most-expensive system -- Switzerland's. That means U.S. households pay an extra $8,000 per year, compared with what Swiss families pay. Case and Deaton call this extra cost a "poll tax," meaning it is levied on every individual regardless of their ability to pay. ("Polle" was an archaic German word for "head," so the idea behind a poll tax is that it falls on every head.)

Despite paying $8,000 more a year than anyone else, American families do not have better health outcomes, the economists argue. Life expectancy in the United States is lower than in Europe.

"We can brag we have the most expensive health care. We can also now brag that it delivers the worst health of any rich country," Case said.

Case and Deaton, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, made the critical remarks about U.S. health care during a talk at the American Economic Association's annual meeting, where thousands of economists gather to discuss the health of the U.S. economy and their latest research on what's working and what's not.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


For Some Never Trumpers, Killing Suleimani Was Finally Something to Like (Michael Crowley, Jan. 6, 2020, NY Times)

Many of those hawks have long applauded Mr. Trump's sanctions-based "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, but they had come to doubt the president's willingness to use military force and were delighted to see him take action against someone responsible for consolidating Iranian influence at the expense of many American lives.

Other frequent Trump critics who cheered the strike against General Suleimani include Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump's foreign policy who posted on Twitter shortly after the Iranian commander's death that Mr. Trump was "was right to order decisive action to kill" him.

Adding to the praise was Mr. Trump's former, and at least somewhat estranged, national security adviser, John R. Bolton, who issued his own triumphal tweet: "Congratulations to all involved in eliminating Qassem Soleimani," Mr. Bolton wrote, calling the strike a "decisive blow" to the Quds Force and potentially "the first step to regime change in Tehran. "

Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, supported the killing of General Suleimani.Credit...Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times
Calls for regime change in Tehran -- which Mr. Trump himself says he does not seek -- are deeply unsettling to Democrats, as is the track record of Mr. Bolton and other Republicans applauding the strike on General Suleimani.

Mr. Bolton has refused opportunities to call the Iraq war a mistake, and Mr. Gerecht said on Monday that he did not "regret the fall of Saddam Hussein." Ms. Cheney's father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, was a main proponent of the invasion and subsequent occupation, and she supported them both.

...they'd recognize themselves in him. They feel about the Shi'a the way Donald does about every minority.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that 'in any other country' she and Joe Biden 'would not be in the same party' (Rosie Perper, 1/07/20, Business Insider)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York defended a statement she made about former Vice President Joe Biden in a profile for New York magazine that was published on Monday: She said that elsewhere in the world she and Biden would not be in the same political party.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Gov. Inslee on border detainments: 'This will not stand' (Bainbridge Island Review, January 6, 2020)

Inslee, in a statement released Monday, invoked the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Inslee's residential home is on Bainbridge Island, where the first Japanese in the United States -- 227 men, women, and children of Japanese descent -- were forcibly removed in March 1942 and sent to the internment camp in Manzanar, California.

"The reports out of the border crossing at Blaine are deeply alarming," Inslee said in a statement. "Washingtonians who happen to be Iranian-American were detained at the Canadian-U.S. border for extended periods of time for no other reason than their ethnicity or country of origin.

"This is wrong and rife with constitutional and moral problems. No one should be treated differently due to where they come from, how they look or what language they speak.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hardliners in the U.S. and Iran Are Each Other's Best Friend (Pankaj Mishra, January 7, 2020, Bloomberg)

This pungent historical irony has been verified right from 1953, when the United States overthrew Iran's elected secular leader, creating the soil in which a religious ideology could flourish. It then watered this soil for decades by supporting a corrupt, inept and brutal despot, the Shah of Iran. The CIA, in particular, helped the Shah's murderous secret police to create martyrs for the coming revolution.

When the revolution erupted in 1979, the United States, instead of heeding the demand of Iranians, and dumping the hated Shah, chose to mollycoddle him. It was American hospitality to the Shah that provoked hard-line Iranian students to occupy the U.S. embassy in Tehran and take 52 hostages.

The Iranian Revolution was still a fragile affair, with many potential outcomes, when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980. The urgencies of national consolidation against a vicious and initially successful invader was what empowered Ayatollah Khomeini and other hardliners; they also overturned Khomeini's deep-rooted Islamic objection to the Shah's nuclear program.

By choosing to back Saddam Hussein against Iran, the United States played an inadvertently stalwart role in strengthening Islamic revolutionaries during a calamitous eight-year-long war that spawned, among others, the legend of Soleimani.

The U.S. became more directly helpful to Tehran after 9/11. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military toppled regimes that had long plagued the Iranian regime (Iran had come close to a full-scale invasion of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan before 9/11).

Then, while the U.S. struggled against two lethal counterinsurgencies, Iran expanded its sphere of influence in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Its network of proxies across the Middle East grew even stronger, as Islamic State emerged out of the ruins of the American invasion of Iraq, and the U.S-backed Saudi Arabian assault on Yemen created a strategic opening for closer ties between Iran and Yemen's Houthi rebels.

This list omits the way our democratization of the Middle East benefited the Shi'a of Lebanon as well.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Chief rabbi: Immigrants from former Soviet Union are 'religion-hating gentiles' (The Times of Israel, 1/07/20)

Israel's Sephardi chief rabbi came under fire Tuesday morning, including from the prime minister, after it was revealed he had referred to immigrants from the former Soviet Union as "religion-hating gentiles."

The Ynet news site reported that at a rabbinical gathering last week in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef told the audience that "hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of gentiles came to Israel under the Law of Return.

"There are many, many non-Jews here, some of them communists, hostile to religion, haters of religion. They are not Jews at all, gentiles. Then they vote for parties that incite against the ultra-Orthodox and against religion."