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BrothersJudd Blog

Blog of the Brothers Judd

Last Build Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2017 17:08:14 -0500

Copyright: Copyright 2017


Sat, 25 Mar 2017 17:08:14 -0500

The Fake Freedom of American Health Care (ANU PARTANEN, MARCH 18, 2017, NY Times)Republicans are fond of criticizing this sort of European-style health care. President Trump has called Canada's national health care system "catastrophic." On CNN recently, Senator Ted Cruz gave multiple examples of how patients in countries with universal, government-managed health care get less care than Americans.In Europe, he said, elderly people facing life-threatening diseases are often placed in palliative care and essentially told it's their time to go. According to the Republican orthodoxy, government always takes away not only people's freedom to choose their doctor, but also their doctor's ability to choose the correct care for patients. People are at the mercy of bureaucrats. Waiting times are long. Quality of care is dismal.But are Republicans right about this? Practically every wealthy capitalist democracy in the world has decided that some form of government-managed universal health care is the most sensible and effective option. According to the latest report of the O.E.C.D. -- an organization of mostly wealthy nations -- the United States as a whole does not actually outshine other countries in the quality of care.In fact, the United States has shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality and fewer doctors per capita than most other developed countries. When it comes to outcomes in some illnesses, including cancer, the United States does have some of the best survival rates in the world -- but that's barely ahead of, or even slightly behind, the equivalent survival rates in other developed countries. In breast cancer survival, for example, the United States comes in second, after Sweden. Third-best is Norway, then Finland. All three countries have universal, government-run health care systems.For colorectal cancer, the five-year survival rate after diagnosis in the United States brings it to a not very impressive ninth place in the O.E.C.D. statistics. Ahead of the United States are South Korea, Israel, Australia, Sweden and Finland, all with some form of government-managed universal health care. And when it comes to cervical cancer, American women are at a significant disadvantage: The United States comes in only 22nd. Meanwhile, life expectancy at age 65 is higher in 24 other developed nations, including Canada, Britain and most European nations.Americans might still assume that long waits for care are inevitable in a health care system run by the government. But that's not necessarily the case either. A report in 2014 by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation specializing in health care research, ranked the United States third in the world in access to specialists. That's a great achievement. But the Netherlands and Switzerland did better. When it comes to nonemergency and elective surgery, patients in several countries, including the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, all of which have universal, government-guided health care systems, have faster access than the United States.It's not just American patients who endure endless bureaucratic hassles. American doctors were also significantly more likely to report as major problems the amount of time they spent on dealing with administrative burdens related to insurance and claims, as well as on getting patients medications or treatment because of restrictions imposed by insurance companies, compared with doctors in most of the other 10 countries studied -- including Sweden and Britain.Overall, Americans spend far more of their hard-earned money on health care than citizens of any other country, by a very wide margin. This means that it is in fact Americans who are getting a raw deal. Americans pay much more than people in other countries but do not get significantly better results. [...]


Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:13:02 -0500

President Trump's former national security advisor met with top Turkish officials during the campaign to discuss removing an exiled Muslim cleric from the U.S., according to reports Friday.

Retired Gen. Mike Flynn and Turkish government ministers talked about sneaking Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for a failed coup last summer, out of the U.S. without going through the legal extradition process, former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey told the Wall Street Journal. [...]

The former Army general was reportedly receiving classified national security briefings last summer alongside Trump while also running his private consulting firm.


Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:06:34 -0500

Wonder and Wickedness: The Anatomy of Good and Evil (Joseph Pearce, 3/25/17, Imaginative Conservative)

In Tolkien's magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, Saruman the White renounces his title and office, declaring himself to be "of many colours." He is no longer content to see reality as being a battle between good and evil, between the light and the darkness. Too "wise" to be bound to such a black-and-white understanding of the cosmos, he spurns the white, the unity of all light, fragmenting it into a pluralistic spectrum, beyond good and evil.

Scholars of philosophy can hardly help but see parallels with the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose late work, Beyond Good and Evil, sought to demolish all traditional notions of morality.

Gandalf tells Saruman, as he would no doubt have told Nietzsche, that he had "left the path of wisdom." Later, after Gandalf has assumed the title of Gandalf the White, he tells Saruman that he has "no colour now," casting him from the order and from the Council. In rejecting the unity of all colours in the One Light of Goodness, choosing instead the fragmentation of light into a host of relativistic hues, Saruman, in his peacock Pride, does not become resplendent with all the colours of the rainbow but fades into fifty shades of grey until, eventually, he has "no colour" at all. Refusing to be one who reflects the light he has become dark, a black hole of malice, shrivelling into a pathetic shadow of his former self, much as Nietzsche, shortly after the publication of Beyond Good and Evil, descended into the black hole of madness, declaring that he, Nietzsche, had created the world and signing himself "Dionysus," the god of drunkenness and ritualized insanity.

What do the cautionary examples of Saruman and Nietzsche, one fictional and the other historical, tell us about the anatomy of good and evil?

The answer is to be found in the black-and-white understanding of the cosmos that they spurned. It is to be found, in fact, in the light of wisdom and wonder shining forth from the mind of Thomas Aquinas, a light that is to the darkness of Nietzsche what the light of Gandalf is to the darkness of Saruman. It is a light that vanquishes the darkness of relativism as well as the will to power that relativism serves.

According to Aquinas, virtue, specifically the virtue of humility, is the prerequisite to all understanding of the cosmos.


Sat, 25 Mar 2017 07:39:19 -0500

In Major Defeat for Trump, Push to Repeal Health Law Fails (ROBERT PEAR, THOMAS KAPLAN and MAGGIE HABERMAN, MARCH 24, 2017, NY Times)

[I]t was the biggest defeat of Mr. Trump's young presidency, which has suffered many. His travel ban has been blocked by the courts. Allegations of questionable ties to the Russian government forced out his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Tensions with key allies such as Germany, Britain and Australia are high, and Mr. Trump's approval ratings are at historic lows.

Republican leaders were willing to tolerate Mr. Trump's foibles with the promise that he would sign into law their conservative agenda. The collective defeat of the health care effort could strain that tolerance.

The American people, like the citizenry of every developed democracy, considers health care a right--considers providing access to health care to be one of the core functions of the federal government.  Indeed, one of the ways Donald made himself tolerable to voters was to promise that Trumpcare would expand Obamacare so that every American would have health coverage. 

Paul Ryan then proceeded to craft a bill that was designed to get the support of Republicans who oppose the provision of health care to anyone but not to get a single vote from Democrats, who universally support the goal.

There are plenty of Third Way improvements the GOP could make to our health care system that would drive down its cost and drive up personal savings, but none of them are possible until they party accepts the reality that it will get them by trading universailty.

On the other hand, the party can continue to undermine Obamacare and we'll end up with a National Health system like all our peers.  That would cut the cost of health care roughly in half, which would be worthwhile, but it would be a blown opportunity to expand personal wealth. 


Sat, 25 Mar 2017 07:34:42 -0500

Groundhog Deus : STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY HAS APPEARED IN HUNDREDS OF FILMS, INCLUDING ONE OF THE GREATEST MOVIES EVER MADE. BUT THESE DAYS, HE'S THINKING--AND WRITING--A LOT ABOUT GOD. (DOMINGO MARTINEZ, April 2017, Texas Monthly)ST: After The Dangerous Animals Club came out, Simon & Schuster called and said, "Could you write another book?" They had noticed this theme of spirituality in Dangerous Animals, so the specific request was "Could you write a book on faith?" Of course I said yes before I had any idea what I would write. And then after thinking about it, I realized that my life and the life of just about everybody I've met follows the template of the Old Testament.DM: Interesting.ST: For example, all of us have a Genesis story about where we came from--our families, where we originated. The first questions on a first date over a first glass of chardonnay are usually our Genesis. Who was your first teacher? How did you grow up? Then we all go into slavery, like in Exodus, except instead of building pyramids, we go into slavery with first love and first heartbreaks, with menial jobs that don't fit our dreams. And then, like in the book of Exodus, we eventually become free, only to find that we're still wandering in the wilderness. Then we all have this Leviticus moment in the middle of our life where we say, "Wait a minute. This is what I am." For me, that's when I met Ann. That's when I had children. That's when I said, "This is what my life is going to be." And that's when I found my way back to the synagogue. Then, like in the book of Numbers, we're shaped by mortality. People we love pass away, and the visions of our own mortality begin to shape us. Finally, as in the book of Deuteronomy, we tell our stories like Moses told the children of Israel their stories, because they forgot what they were doing because they were wandering for decades in the wilderness. And we tell our stories to our children to try to make sense of our own journey.DM: From listening to your podcast, it doesn't seem like faith was very present early on in your life. What changed? ST: In the middle of my life, when I came back to the synagogue, I found there was a comfort in the validation of tradition. I had one moment in the synagogue that completely turned me around. When I first started coming back, I went to a service one Saturday morning. I was the only person in the synagogue. No one had shown up but the old rabbi. And the rabbi said, "What, do you think it's something I said?" And then he said, "Come on, come on up here with me. Are you afraid to pray with an old man?" I said, "Oh, I'm very afraid." "You should be," he said. "Listen, we're going to take this opportunity to feel these prayers, to understand these prayers; the psalms are beautiful, you should understand the beauty of the psalms and enjoy them. Let's just start this together, you and me." And that is when I realized that the religious moment is a solitary moment, it's not a group moment. If you look back through the Bible, every real experience someone has with God, they're alone. You have Moses and the burning bush, you have Jesus at Gethsemane, you have Abraham looking out at the stars of the sky with "the stranger," who might be the personage of God. And that's when I realized, wait a minute, what we're talking about when we talk about faith is an element of our life that changes through our life, just like my waistline. I found this comfort in tradition, and I felt like I was able to be a student again and study the Torah and the Talmud and the Mishnah.But then later in my life I started having catastrophes--I broke my neck, I had open-heart surgery. And in those moments my faith became something other than scholastic, and I began to feel the real power of the invisible and of faith, and the possibility of a miracle. A lot of times people like to think of miracles as something akin to a magic trick, but the way I see a miracle is when your mind suddenl[...]


Sat, 25 Mar 2017 07:21:42 -0500

Tillerson Didn't Want His Job, and So Far He's Bad at It (Daniel W. Drezner, 3/25/17,  The Washington Post)

[E]rin McPike, the one reporter permitted on Tillerson's plane for his latest trip, filed a 3,300-word story last Tuesday night. Reading it, I have come to one unmistakable conclusion: I was wrong about encouraging Tillerson to speak with the press. Tillerson should shut the heck up until he demonstrates that he knows what he's talking about.

This interview is terrifying, but not for the reason that Twitter focused on Tuesday night. McPike wrote that Tillerson, asked why he wanted the job, replied, "I didn't want this job. I didn't seek this job." Asked why he said yes, he said, "My wife told me I'm supposed to do this."

Tillerson said he'd never met Donald Trump before the election. As president-elect, Trump wanted to speak with Tillerson "about the world," to get Tillerson's views on the global issues he'd handled as ExxonMobil CEO, McPike wrote. " 'When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of state, I was stunned.'


Fri, 24 Mar 2017 19:01:26 -0500

Why Trumpcare Failed : There is more to passing major legislation than possessing a mathematical majority in Congress. (BRIAN BEUTLER, March 24, 2017, New Republic)

As one of the leading figures in American conservatism, Ryan spent so much time fantasizing about aligning procedural stars that he lost sight of all the other elements that went into creating the welfare state he hoped to roll back. The failure of Trumpcare--which would have kicked millions of people off health insurance, while delivering a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans--underscores the shortsightedness of the idea that major social change can be created with the will to power alone.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has never been so naive. In 2012, he acknowledged the centrality of public sentiment to the rise of liberalism, and that Republicans bore the obligation to win public trust before they set about dismantling what it took Democrats decades to build.

"[T]he American people have never given us the kind of hammerlock on Congress that Democrats had during the New Deal, that they had during the Great Society, and that they had in 2009 and 2010," he told Kentucky radio ahead of former President Barack Obama's reelection in 2012. "Why haven't you been able to get better results?...The answer to that is, we haven't had enough votes. We have elections in this country and the winners get to make policy and the losers go home. And the Democrats have had Congress, sometimes with whopping majorities, most of the time since the New Deal. And that's a great disappointment...because we've not been able to secure the support of enough of the American people to have the kind of big majorities you need to kind of roll things back. Maybe some day we'll have that. I hope so."

After Donald Trump's surprising Electoral College victory, McConnell was alone among Republican leaders in flashing yellow lights. It wasn't lost on him that his 52-vote majority in the Senate wouldn't have the capacity to pass significant, ideologically one-sided legislation, and that Trump had lost the popular vote by millions of ballots. Republicans won the presidency in 2016, but they lost seats in both the House and Senate, which is not the signal voters send when they are asking one party to impose its will.

Under those circumstances, enacting a vast, regressive, polarizing agenda wouldn't be a masterstroke--the product of the hard work of persuasion and consensus-building. It would be a mugging.

The most important takeaway is that Trumpcare did not die today, it was stillborn.  The bill could never have made it past the Senate so the whole thing was an exercise in ideological futility.


Fri, 24 Mar 2017 18:25:08 -0500

President Trump recently participated in an interview with Time Magazine's Michael Scherer for a cover story about his relationship with the truth. Predictably, this conversation really tested the limits of irony.

In the full transcript of the interview published by Time, Trump lies a lot, says a number of half-true things, does not admit he was incorrect to link Ted Cruz's father with Lee Harvey Oswald, foists responsibility for his inaccuracies onto media reports that he misrepresents, says the word "Brexit" 11 times, and forms sentences like "Brussels, I said, Brussels is not Brussels." But, listen, some of it was fine! In the transcript below, we have redacted everything that is not verifiably true. What remains is everything the president said that is definitely true.


Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:52:46 -0500

House Republicans pull health care bill (Stephen Collinson, Dana Bash, Phil Mattingly, Deirdre Walsh, Lauren Fox and MJ Lee, 3/24/17, CNN)

House Speaker Paul Ryan sensationally canceled a vote on his Obamacare repeal bill for a second time, repudiating President Donald Trump who has threatened to walk away from health care reform if the measure does not pass on Friday.

The number that should terrify Republicans: voters generally said they'd reelect their member of Congress 44-38, but after being told about their member's support for the health care bill, that shifted to 45-38 in favor of a Democratic challenger.

Now put W and the UR in charge of making some proposals that get us to universal coverage with market-based plans.


Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:42:43 -0500

It started when Nunes asked, "Do Russians historically prefer Republicans to win over Democrats?" Nunes ticked through some recent elections and inquired whether the Russians supported John McCain over Obama, in 2008, or Mitt Romney over Obama, in 2012. Comey said that he didn't know the answer.

"I'm just asking a general question," Nunes said. "Wouldn't it be a little preposterous to say that, historically, going back to Ronald Reagan and all that we know about maybe who the Russians would prefer, that somehow the Russians prefer Republicans over Democrats?"

Watching the hearing, this seemed like a curious line of questioning. Because members of the House Intelligence Committee often know a great deal more than they can say publicly, they sometimes use their questioning to hint at what they have learned in classified settings. Nunes's questions seemed to suggest some broader debate, as Comey confirmed when he shut down the exchange.

"I'm not going to discuss in an unclassified forum," he said. "In the classified segment of the reporting version that we did, there is some analysis that discusses this because, remember, this did come up in our assessment on the Russian piece."

Nunes thanked him and turned to Representative Peter King, of New York. King was less circumspect than Nunes had been. "I would just say on that because, again, we're not going into the classified sections, that indicating that historically Russians have supported Republicans, and I know that language is there, to me puts somewhat of a cloud over the entire report," King said.

I didn't notice it at the time, though I was in the room, and the C-SPAN video of the hearing doesn't capture it, but Democrats told me that there was, at this point, a minor commotion on the dais. King had just revealed that the classified version of the report had concluded "that historically Russians have supported Republicans."

Two Democrats, confirming what King said, told me that there was a significant fight over this judgment during a recent classified briefing. "I was really taken aback that it came up in the hearing," one Democratic congressman on the committee told me. "I might just observe to you, if there was such a conclusion, you can bet that the Republicans would have pushed back very, very hard about such a conclusion. And I don't want to say more than that."

Sometimes it's difficult for someone privy to classified information to keep straight what is classified and what is not, especially when a classified judgment seems relatively innocuous. I asked King about the exchange, and his answer suggested that he was confused about the classification.

Do we really need to keep who they prefer secret from the Russians?  Aren't they likely to know?


Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:36:24 -0500

James Harris Jackson stabbed a black man with a sword on the street in Manhattan on Wednesday, March 22, in what he admitted to police was an intentional hate crime. Jackson, who is from Maryland, told police he is a member of a white supremacist hate group.

Jackson had traveled to New York with plans to kill black men in relationships with white women, but wound up targeting a homeless man in an act of terrorism. Jackson says he carried out the attack to "send a message" and claims he's written a racist manifesto.

On what appears to be Jackson's personal YouTube account, he subscribed to a variety of fascist YouTube channels, many of which support President Donald Trump and other far-right leaders and circulate anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. His subscription list is a who's who of alt-right figures, including Alex Jones, Stefan Molyneux, Paul Ray Ramsey and many more. 

Jackson subscribed to the channel for the National Policy Institute and Radix. The former is the white supremacist organization founded by neo-Nazi Richard Spencer (who led a "Hail Trump" chant at a white supremacist conference last year), and the latter is the fascist journal Spencer publishes.

Salafi is Arabic for alt-right.


Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:22:21 -0500

Kids on winning robotics team told, 'Go back to Mexico' (Suzette Hackney, 3/24/17, The Indianapolis Star)

The day should have been one of glory and celebration for five fourth-graders.

The Pleasant Run Elementary students had just won a robotics challenge at Plainfield High School, and the students -- new to bot competition this year -- were one step closer to the Vex IQ State Championship.

The team is made up of 9- and 10-year-olds. Two are African American and three are Latino.

As the group, called the Pleasant Run PantherBots, and their parents left the challenge last month in Plainfield, Ind., competing students from other Indianapolis-area schools and their parents were waiting for them in the parking lot.

"Go back to Mexico!" two or three kids screamed at their brown-skin peers and their parents, according to some who were there.

This verbal attack had spilled over from the gymnasium. While the children were competing, one or two parents disparaged the Pleasant Run kids with racist comments -- and loud enough for the Pleasant Run families to hear.

"They were pointing at us and saying that 'Oh my God, they are champions of the city all because they are Mexican. They are Mexican, and they are ruining our country,' " said Diocelina Herrera, the mother of PantherBot Angel Herrera-Sanchez.

These are minority students from the east side of the city, poor kids from a Title I school.

The white kids only need to know enough science to cook up meth anyway....


Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:33:12 -0500

Trump the Dealmaker Projects Bravado, but Behind the Scenes, Faces Rare Self-Doubt (GLENN THRUSH and MAGGIE HABERMAN, MARCH 23, 2017, NY Times)

[T]hursday's reality check came with a Trumpian dose of the surreal.

Mr. Trump appeared almost oblivious to the dire situation unfolding in the hours after he hosted a meeting with members of the House Freedom Caucus at the White House, where he made the case Mr. Winston pointed to -- that not passing the health bill risks the rest of the Republican agenda.

In the midafternoon, a beaming Mr. Trump climbed into the rig of a black tractor-trailer, which had been driven to the White House for an event with trucking industry executives, honking the horn and posing for a series of tough-guy photos -- one with his fists held aloft, another staring straight ahead, hands gripping the large wheel, his face compressed into an excited scream.

At a meeting inside shortly afterward, Mr. Trump announced that he was pressed for time and needed to go make calls for more votes.

A reporter informed him that the vote had already been called off.

That's Andrew Ferguson-worthy.


Fri, 24 Mar 2017 07:17:52 -0500


Le Pen has expressed pro-Russian views and favors closer integration between France and Russia. The far-right politician has publicly stated that she sees the disputed region of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as part of Russia and wants the European Union to remove sanctions on Moscow.

"I see no reasons that would justify the current hostile attitude of the French authorities toward Russia," said Le Pen on Friday, according to TASS. "We have always believed that Russia and France need to maintain and develop the ties that have bound us for a long time."


Fri, 24 Mar 2017 06:15:46 -0500

Why Lying Is So Easy for Trump (BEN ADLER, March 24, 2017, New Republic)

[S]uch dramatic theories miss the simplest explanation for Trump's lying: He's a real estate developer from New York City. Lying isn't a personal failure. It's a business model.

New York real estate, where Trump first learned the art of the con, is a line of work that's built on chicanery. Under state law, real estate developers have a de facto legal license to lie, and they use it with abandon. The marketing materials for a luxury condo might advertise top-flight amenities--on-site SoulCycle, say, or valet stroller parking--but buyers have no legal recourse after they move in and discover they have to haul their strollers up six flights like a tenement-dweller; as a matter of New York law, only the final sales contract is binding. And with land values so high and profit margins so slim, developers have every incentive to hype the sales pitch. "Real estate investors sell their product--and in the process, they promise it will have benefits that may not ever be realized," says Thomas Angotti, a professor of urban planning at Hunter College and author of New York For Sale. Or as one real estate broker and property manager in New York puts it: "Everybody in this business is a f[****]g liar."   [...]

Trump is well versed in the dark arts of the New York mega-developer. In 1979, he got the city to approve 20 extra stories for Trump Tower by creating a fourth-floor "public garden" that is almost never open. He also replaced the lone bench in the public lobby with kiosks selling paraphernalia from his presidential campaign and The Apprentice. (Last summer, after losing a series of administrative decisions by the city, Trump returned the bench.) His now-infamous habit of stiffing contractors is common among developers. Trump has also lied to preservationists, promising to preserve the Art Deco friezes from the façade of the Bonwit Teller department store building that he demolished to make way for Trump Tower. When he realized it would take two weeks to remove them undamaged, he instead jackhammered them to pieces.