November 21, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 2:32 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


Representative Ilhan Omar: 'I Hope President Biden Seizes This Opportunity.' (Representative Ilhan Omar, 11/21/20, The Nation)

Trump began his presidency by backing out of the Iran nuclear deal, which had been a major feat in diplomacy with buy-in from all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council--China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States--plus Germany and Iran. The deal was not only notable for the countries that it brought to the table, but for what it prevented: a nuclear-armed Iran that could threaten the United States and risk a global nuclear war.

Nearly every action taken under President Trump has made armed conflict more instead of less likely. Trump imposed crippling sanction after crippling sanction on the Iranian people--depriving them of much-needed medical supplies during a pandemic and further tightening the brutal authoritarian regime's grip on power. He ordered the assassination of an Iranian commander--risking all-out war--earlier this year. As a result of these actions, Iran finally backed out of the nuclear pact that Trump himself had torn up in 2018--and now has 12 times more enriched uranium than would have been permitted under the agreement.

Meanwhile, Trump has cozied up to some of the most notorious human rights abusers in the world, including Saudi Arabia, a regime responsible for some of the worst atrocities of our young century. Under absolute monarch Mohamad bin Salman ("MBS"), Saudi Arabia regularly imprisons, tortures, and kills advocates for human rights and political reform in their own country--especially women's rights advocates. Using US weapons, Saudi Arabia has bombed, blockaded, starved, and slaughtered thousands of Yemeni civilians in its war in Yemen. After resolutions to end US arms sales to Saudi Arabia passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming majorities, Trump vetoed all of them. When MBS was linked to the murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, Trump bragged that he "saved his ass."

But the shameless celebration of human rights abuses didn't end with Saudi Arabia. In the run-up to the election, Trump brokered so-called "peace deals" between the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Israel. Besides the very well-documented war crimes in Yemen, the UAE has also been credibly accused of committing war crimes in Libya. It is also reportedly paying for child soldiers from the same militia that committed the Darfur genocide, badly undercutting the transition to democracy in Sudan. Bahrain is a brutal dictatorship that summarily executes political dissidents and protesters, including religious leaders; routinely uses torture and arbitrary detention; and targets human rights defenders and women.

Are these the regimes we want to be empowering?

In truth, these aren't peace deals as much as they're arms sale deals to human rights abusers. And they're less about normalizing relations with Israel than they are about forming military alliances against Iran. Proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to rage in Yemen, Syria, and, to some extent, Libya. And these alliances only further align the United States and Israel with the Gulf states in these conflicts. Soon after the UAE deal went through, Trump proposed a staggering $23 billion in arms sales to the UAE, which the administration admitted was linked to the deal.

America should always stand with self-determination, certainly not Wahhabism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Anthony Fauci has had it with people who think COVID-19 is no worse than the flu (Nicole Carroll, 11/20/20, USA TODAY)

Dr. Anthony Fauci has had it with people who think COVID-19 is no worse than the flu, not a big deal. I asked him how he processes that viewpoint as someone who has devoted his life to science.

"You have (over 250,000 COVID-19) deaths, 11 million infections and 70,000 people in the hospital. Flu doesn't even come close," Fauci said Wednesday during our USA TODAY Editorial Board meeting.

"When you ask me about frustration, which borders on pain, it's that either people don't want to look at the data or they look at the data and they say it's fake. No, it isn't fake. ... This is a global issue. I tell the people who deny or think that this is nothing, do you mean that every single country in Europe is doing the same thing, is making things up? They're not. I mean, it's so obvious."

It's unusual, but understandable, to see Fauci so exasperated. He's working around the clock to save lives, but the numbers keep getting worse. Crowds at one of President Donald Trump's campaign rallies chanted for  Fauci to be fired.

He understands the fear out there. He said he doesn't want to shut down the nation. He knows the psychological and economic consequences of that "but we at least have got to be consistent in doing some fundamental things."

Those fundamental things he repeats: Wear masks uniformly; adhere to physical distancing; avoid group settings, particularly indoors; try to do things, as weather allows, outdoors; and wash your hands frequently.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Meatballs and MillionairesDearest AOC, fly with me to Sweden. A lovely place, but you might not want to live there. (Hannes Stein, 20 Nov 2020, American Purpose)

Dear Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, could I persuade you to spare some time from your quarrel with my conservative Never Trump friends at the Lincoln Project and take a trip with me to the Kingdom of Sweden?

I happen to know a little something about Sweden. First and foremost, I would like you to try the Swedish national dish. It is called "köttbullar." Köttbullar are meatballs, usually served with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. Actually, they're Turkish. The story goes as follows: King Charles XII, who ruled Sweden at the beginning of the 18th century, waged war against Russia. The war went badly, and King Charles had to flee to the Ottoman Empire. There, he encountered köttbullar; the Turks call their version köfte. Charles loved them. When he was finally able to return to Sweden, he brought the recipe home with him.

Can you guess what I'm driving at? This was an act of cultural appropriation, just like spaghetti with tomato sauce! Noodles come, via Marco Polo, from China. The tomatl, a distinctly Aztec fruit, was unknown in Italy before the 16th century, when it was imported by the conquistadores from Peru.

Thus, we arrive at Swedish Lesson Number One: no cultural appropriation = no tasty food.

Yes, your sense of cultural appropriation is likely more nuanced than mine, but perhaps we can agree that navel-gazing about cultural intermingling is a distraction from more important topics.

Now that we've eaten, on to some statistics. Sweden has one of the world's highest rates of greedy capitalists per capita--one billionaire per 250,000 inhabitants, to be exact. Together, those billionaires control around a quarter of the country's annual GDP. So, we're not talking economic equality here.

Yet the Heritage Foundation ranks Sweden number twenty-two on its index of economic freedom--slightly lower than the United States, at number seventeen, but much higher than France, number sixty-four. So, what explains Sweden's high grade? For starters, it is relatively easy to found a company in the country, because there's not much red tape and, what with Scandinavian virtue, you don't have to bribe anyone. Furthermore, it's easy to hire and fire people--much easier, say, than in Germany, ranked number twenty-seven. And the Swedes, like their fellow Scandinavians, are committed free marketeers. Any rapacious outsider can buy a Swedish company. Swedish authorities will exercise benign neglect.

Thus, Swedish Lesson Number Two: Your socialist paradise is in fact a highly enthusiastic capitalist country.

What makes all the neoliberalism tolerable, of course, is Sweden's famous welfare state. Swedes don't lose their health insurance when they lose their jobs. They get unemployment benefits (arbetslöshetsersättning, if you're interested) for sixty weeks after they've been fired. The state helps them find a new job.

When a child is born, the state makes it possible for a parent to work from home for up to 480 days. There are lavish housing benefits. There is child support. And who pays for all those beautiful things? Not the billionaires, or not just the billionaires. Anyone earning more than about $42,000 per year will end up paying between 49 and 60 percent of his or her income for these services, through a combination of local and national income taxes.

In addition, I must tell you that Sweden's cost of living is quite high. If we had a bottle of wine with our köttbullar at a restaurant, the tab would be about 270 krona, or more than 30 bucks.

Ah, yes, and another thing: Health care in Sweden is not "Medicare for all." Private health insurance may be rare, but it does exist, as it does in all European countries, including the United Kingdom.

Which brings us to Swedish Lesson Number Three: The Swedish welfare state is by no means Marxist.

The properties have not been expropriated. The banks are still owned by filthy rich capitalists. There are no five-year plans. The manufacturer of Wasabröd crispbread has not been nationalized. The foundation of the Swedish welfare state is a moral and social pact: The loyal subjects of Carl XVI Gustaf (did I mention that Sweden is still a monarchy?) simply choose to sacrifice large chunks of their incomes to help one other.