Monthly Archives: July 2012

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Romney Praises Government-Funded Health Care

Paul Krugman had a post in his blog for today how Romney praised Israel’s healthcare system, but I was a bit floored when I looked at Romney’s actual words in the original news source Krugman cites, the Washington Post.  Romney said

 When our health care costs are completely out of control. Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of the GDP in Israel? 8 percent. You spend 8 percent of GDP on health care. And you’re a pretty healthy nation. We spend 18 percent of our GDP on health care. 10 percentage points more. That gap, that 10 percent cost, let me compare that with the size of our military. Our military budget is 4 percent. Our gap with Israel is 10 points of GDP. We have to find ways, not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to finally manage our health care costs.

The Israeli government requires everyone to have health insurance and the government pays for it with taxes.  We know Romney would not favor that.

In a recent post, I criticized the Israel’s intense militarization, but they clearly have gotten their health care right, especially when you like at the statistics in the Washington Post charts.

Obama Not Much Better Than Romney–fascinating poll data of Arab world

My recent post on Mitt Romney’s “tough talk” on Israel was only one side of the coin.  On Friday, before Romney’s trip, Obama signed the US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, increasing military ties between the two countries.  A Haaretz blog points out that this is largely political and that the act itself won’t do a whole lot, but a few key assumptions deserve scrutiny:

 

1) Obviously this was political, since Obama had Jewish senators and leaders of AIPAC by his side during the signing.  What does it say if the way our politicians try to get the Jewish vote is by showing how much they believe in giving military aid to Israel?  Iran is consistently put out as the main threat to Israel, and thus made to justify all this military aid.  But as Losang made an excellent point of in a recent post, even the US military sees Iran’s military as largely defensive, not offensive.  A terrible regime to be sure, but they are not the lunatics they are made out to be.  But if you can portray the Iranians as part of the irrational, Islamofascist, anti-Semitic conspiracy, then the US becomes the savior of Israel through massive military assistance.  Is this really the only way to get the Jewish vote?

2)  The US-Israel relationship is based on military (and economic) ties.  Is military aid really going to make Israel safer?  Israel has far more power militarily than the Arab world combined and the message that is sent when giving more aid is “The US and Israel will dominate these region with force.”  So the Arab world can do what we say or face the consequences.  This results in some very interesting trends in Arab public opinion.  The Brookings Institution released polls they did of the Arab world (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and United Arab Emirates) in 2011, which found the following:

  • When asked “What two countries do you think are the biggest threat to you?”   71% said Israel, 59% said the US, and only 18% said Iran.  59% view the US either “somewhat” unfavorably or “very” unfavorably.
  • When asked which leader outside one’s own country you admire the most, a plurarity of 22% said Erdogon of Turkey, 13% said Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, and 13% said Ahmadinajad of Iran.  Obama came in at 4%, which sadly couldn’t even beat Saddam Hussein at 6%, who has been dead for several years.
  • A 64% majority say Iran has the right to develop a nuclear program, even though a 52% majority think it is for nuclear weapons and not for peaceful purposes.  A 35% plurality think nuclear weapons would have a negative impact on the Middle East.
  • Perhaps most telling of all, respondents were asked to pick two items from the following list as what they thought were driving US policy in the Middle East.  Next to each item is the percentage who chose each factor: controlling oil (53%), protecting Israel (44%), weakening the Muslim world (32%), preserving regional and global dominance (29%), promoting peace and stability (8%), fighting terrorism (8%), preventing the spread of nuclear weapons (7%), spreading human rights (5%), and promoting democracy (5%).
  • Moreover, it is not some irrational hatred of Jews that leads to these attitudes.  67% say they are ready for peace with Israel if Israel is willing to return the 1967 territories, including East Jerusalem.

 

What this all means is that what is called US support for Israel is progressively alienating the Arab population, who in some areas at least (oil especially) seem to understand motivations for US policy better than the US population.  That such a serious issue is campaign fodder is horrendous.

It’s Not Quantum Field Theory

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to Mitt Romney, Paul Krugman?

PAUL KRUGMAN: Boy, you know, don’t even know where to start. I mean, Romney’s technique is that—since basically every word he says is a lie, including ‘a,’ ‘and’ and ‘the,’ you never know where to start.

DemocracyNow! May 17, 2012.

I think the question isn’t why he makes so many false statements but why he goes unchallenged.  I mean this isn’t quantum field theory.  These are issues anyone who cares about the facts could easily uncover.  When we read statements like “we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you” it is useful to look at the assumptions behind them.

Leaving aside the irony the U.S. is telling another country they can’t have nuclear weapons, the constant barrage of statements like these carry the implicit assumption Iran is a threat and since it came from Washington it is true by definition.  But even the most rudimentary analysis shows the hollowness of such claims.  If we are serious about these questions, questions that have potentially disastrous consequences for human civilization; if we recognize left unchecked words have the potential to cause tremendous suffering we need to look honestly.

In 2010 the Defense Intelligence Agency issued a statement on Iran’s military power before the U.S. Senate. (The full report can be downloaded here).  Given “the strategic objectives of Iran’s leadership are first and foremost, regime survival”  it would be pure insanity for them to even consider launching a nuclear attack.  The other option could be a conventional attack on Israel but “Iran has historically placed the majority of its conventional force strength–to include armor, mechanized infantry, and infantry units–close to its borders with Iraq and Turkey. This reflects its defensive military doctrine, which is designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.”

A plausible case can be made that most people don’t spend their free time reading senate committee transcripts.  But if we are to call ourselves a democracy the minimum criteria is a functioning media that will inform the public on issues of such existential importance.

When we begin to see the truth we may start to ask the right wrong questions.  If Iran is not a threat why is the opposite constantly repeated?  Why are our leaders deliberately working to escalate the possibility of violence?  Perhaps Israel feels the need to flex its muscles?  Maybe the U.S. doesn’t want another regional power in the Middle East?  The answers to these questions are not easy but exposing the standard narrative as nonsense is; and this is where the road to truth begins.

Romney Thinks He Can Stick it to the Arabs Better than Obama

A Romney aide said that a President Romney would “respect” Israel’s decision should it attack Iran to stop it from developing a nuclear weapon.  So the implied narrative seems to be “The world has abandoned Israel so we can abandon the UN charter and allow Israel to do what it pleases.  Israel only ever goes to war in self-defense, so we can just assume their motives are just.”

Romney also says the US should move its embassy to Jerusalem.  It is shameful what people will do when vying for votes.

Romney Visits Israel: What does this say about the United States?

The shameful part about Romney’s visit to Israel is that he can actually make Obama look weak.  There is a competition here on who will protect the Jews more, which has taken on twisted mentality since protecting Jews apparently means being the most willing to let Israel expand and knock over whoever gets in their way.  Exhibit A is the Israeli government asking its Supreme Court for permission to demolish Palestinian homes.

 

For more info: Say what you want about his style, but Norman Finkelstein is the best analyst of Israel’s human rights record, as well as comparison of its actions with international law.

Heresy: Voting Is Overrated

Jonathan Bernstein has a recent post answering readers’ questions about the dilemma of voting for third parties when we know that they usually cannot have much influence. I am all for voting, but too often we treat it as a holy grail, when it really just the bare minimum for a democracy. This is why I’m glad Bernstein mentions other forms of citizen activity, such as attending political party campaigns and taking part in interest group activity, such as working with groups like the ACLU. Interest groups are the real key to democracy. If you cannot get your voice heard (and being a drop in the bucket of voting tallies does not count as being heard), then your interests will not be addressed. Labor unions can be crucial on this point. One example: In the 2010 Congressional elections, the US voter participation rate (as a percentage of registered voters) was 41.59%. Meanwhile we have parliamentary election participation rates in Sweden at 84.63%, Belgium 89.22%, and the UK 65.77%. In 2010, the percentage of workers belonging to a union was 11.9% (US), 68.4% (Sweden), 52% (Belgium), and 26.5 (UK). Obviously, there are other factors as well, but union membership is clearly part of the picture. Unions mobilize voters and also have a greater say in the political process, usually giving union members a party they tend to align with.

Still a classic…

I wish this video showed more history and less of the band, but still there are some excellent messages.

The 2nd Amendment Just Can’t Be the Main Reason the Arms Treaty Failed

The US is the world’s biggest arms trader, but the news is presenting US concerns as being based on 2nd Amendment issues.  Is it not possible (and obvious?) that the US is concerned about a global arms treaty because it does not want limits placed on its arms trade?  Interesting that Reuters says US officials are concerned that the treaty might be too weak.  One can only assume that is code for “we are concerned that weapons might go to people we don’t like.”  Does that mean that selling weapons is fine if the US approves it?

Regarding the 2nd Amendment, polling over the years shows a sharp decrease in support for stricter laws, but certainly not an overwhelming consensus that stricter gun control is unthinkable.

 

Wild solution #1: Have liberals be as politically organized as conservatives.

Wilder solution #2: Get a third world country a permanent seat at the Security Council.  Not nearly as wild an idea as one might think.

 

A good background from a month ago below…DN will surely have more on Monday…