50 Egyptian Soldiers, others, Killed in Daesh Sinai Rebellion

Aljazeera International | Video Report | – –

“At least 35 people killed as ISIL group attacks police posts in Sheikh Zuweid and El-Arish.Al Jazeera’s Omar Saleh reports.”

At the same time, Egyptian troops surrounded and killed 9 Muslim Brothers in a Cairo neighborhood, including a former member of parliament.

Deadly Attacks hit Egypt’s Sinai

For map work:

sinai

Bernie Sanders’ 10,000-person crowd in Madison biggest of any Candidate so Far

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Democratic Party’s left wing is fed up and isn’t going to take it any more. Americans in opinion polling overwhelmingly favor the positions of Bernie Sanders on most political and social issues. But gerrymandering, big money in politics, and voter suppression have produced presidents who are either far right or center-right for decades. Not only have presidents been chosen by the wealthy elite, but the House of Representatives has, as well, So, too, have many state governors and legislatures. After the disappointment of the Obama administration, which is slightly to the right of Dwight Eisenhower, the left is impatient and frustrated.

And along comes Bernie Sanders. He stands for union rights, for a higher minimum wage, for women’s right to reproductive choice, for bank reform and regulation, and he is against income and wealth inequality of the sort that now characterizes the US (inequality is greater now than at any time since 1928, he says). He recognizes the power realities of today’s plutocratic America, and forthrightly says he is forming a movement to force the kind of changes that would amount to a revolution in American affairs.

He thunders that for the past 40 years the American middle class has gradually been disappearing. He points out that the average wage of the average worker is now actually lower than in those earlier years.

He points to high unemployment rates especially among youth, and wants to create jobs and educational opportunities rather than building more jails.

And, new in Madison, he added passages to his stump speech about African Americans being free to walk down the street in places like Ferguson, Mo., without any fear. He hasn’t had a big African-American constituency but clearly aims to develop one.

Since the courts and often the Obama administration have repeatedly told us there is nothing that can be done about these problems, the silent majority has been seething.

Bernie Sanders is helping them do something more useful than seethe. He is giving them political and economic goals. And they are grateful. So it is no wonder that Ten thousand of them came out in Madison.

Sanders has a Sisyphean task. We saw how Parisian taxi drivers effectively struck against what they see as unfair competition from Uber last week. But American workers seem to just let people walk all over them. Sanders wants to build a fire under them, and he may well succeed.

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Related video:

Bernie Sanders in Madison, Wisconsin 07-01-2015

If ISIL had burned down 4 Churches, it would have been Headline News

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Seven African-American churches have burned down in the past week and at least four of these southern Black churches were victims of deliberate arson, and possibly six were.

This news is being reported tentatively and in the passive mood. The churches burned or were burned. But that arson directed at an African-American church in the South after the Roof murders is likely the work of white supremacists is only hinted at. The ambiguity of thunderstorms is typically brought in, quoting local authorities. But there are lots of thunderstorms all the time in the South and churches have lightning rods. Why would a church that had stood for decades suddenly succumb to a single storm?

Shouldn’t the headline be “Suspected White supremacists burn down at least four African-American churches” ? Shouldn’t there be an agent, a doer, involved?

Compare how the press handled Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) attacks on Christians and churches. It was front page news! And the active voice was used, even though these events happened thousands of miles away amidst a fog of war and there were no Western eyewitnesses.

isis_church

Further evidence that “terrorism” is “raced” in the United States, as something that dark-skinned people do but as a category improperly applied to white people.

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Related video:

The Young Turks: “Five Black Churches Have Burned To The Ground In One Week”

The Great Wall of Turkey? Ankara imagines DMZ w/ Kurds, ISIL

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

So I am going to tell you a story about Turkey, Syria and the United States. It may or may not be true. Its details may or may not have happened, though there is reason to think they did. It is a story. The point is to see if the story makes sense of what has appeared in the news but which has not been explained.

The Obama administration decided last summer to begin bombing raids against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) in Syria, along with some allies such as the UK. Bombing raids like that don’t really amount to anything, though, without some infantry or guerrilla force on the ground to take advantage of them. Moreover, it wasn’t much good to destroy Daesh assets around Raqqa if they could just import more via Turkey through the checkpoint for Raqqa Province, Tel al-Abyad.

Daesh was hungry to control all of Raqqa Province, including the Kurdish canton of Kobane in the far north, which would give them yet another checkpoint crossing with Turkey, for bringing in men and supplies. So on 19 September, 2014, Daesh struck at the city of Kobane, provoking 120,000 panicked Kurds to flee over the border into Turkey.

President Obama called up Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in my story, and said, “Tayyip, we need your help to defend Kobane.”

And Tayyip replied, “Mr. President, if we strengthen the PKK terrorists in Kobane on the border with Turkey, that will be a future security problem for my country when they hook up with the fighters in Qandil in Iraq and start intensive car-bombing of my cities like Diyarbakr in eastern Anatolia.”

[The strongest political force in Kobane is the far-left Democratic Union Party, with its paramilitary, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Although it is technically a branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the US and Turkey consider a terrorist organization, it is autonomous and does not have a line of command to the PKK.]

So President Obama goes to Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, and says, Erdogan won’t help fight Daesh in Kobane because he is afraid of the leftist Kurds there. Can you give us some nice, conservative, bourgeois fighters to defend the city?” The US military has strong relationships with the Peshmerga from Iraq War days and knows how to work with them.

And Barzani is happy to oblige. And Erdogan is pressured to acquiesce. So Peshmerga from Iraqi Kurdistan are allowed to pass over Turkish territory to Kobana and help fight off Daesh.

But the reinforcements are not enough and Kobane could still fall. So a t the beginning of this year Obama orders very intensive bombing of Daesh convoys and assets moving toward Kobane, and that, in conjunction with the YPG and Peshmerga guerrillas on the ground, defeats the Daesh assault by late January of 2015.

But Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh have learned something important from Kobane. The Kurds can and will fight if you give them good aerial support, unlike much of the Iraqi army. The successful defense of Kobane gives them an idea. What if you could unite the Kurdish canton of Jazira in the northeast with the Kurdish canton of Kobane, using Kurdish fighters and allied air power? You’d have a solid band of Kurdish control all across northern Syria, depriving Daesh of its border checkpoint, Tel al-Abyad and strangling the movement of reinforcements and resupply from Turkey.

Meanwhile, pleas to Erdogan to use the Turkish military to cut off Daesh have fallen on deaf ears. Erdogan is furious about any strengthening of the Syrian Kurds on his border, but just seems mysteriously unconcerned about having Daesh on the same border. Some charge that he is anti-leftist but soft on Muslim radicalism. Some say that Daesh has cells inside Turkey and has threatened to destroy the country’s tourism industry if the Turkish government does not cooperate.

Obama, Carter and Welsh decide to go ahead with their plan, and let Erdogan suck on it, in late May and early June, to have YPG fighters (and maybe there were some Peshmerga who came over to help) take Tel al-Abyad and hook up with Kobane, cutting Daesh off. They are also careful to include some Sunni Arab auxiliaries, the “Euphrates Volcano” forces, which are presumably the far eastern kernel of a rebuilt Free Syrian Army covertly supported by the US. The plan succeeds!

So Erdogan is absolutely livid. He denounces this development as a future threat to Turkey, even though he had not denounced Daesh as such.

The obvious thing for Daesh to do now is establish a new smuggling route from the Turkish border behind Aleppo down to Raqqa. But that area east and north of Aleppo is controlled by the rebels of whom the US is suspicious of having Jihadi tendencies Army of Conquest (Jaysh al-Fath), a group of fundamentalist Sunni Arab militias closely allied with the Support Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), an al-Qaeda affiliate. So ISIL has to attack the other radical Sunni rebels, which it has done many times before. The US is in the awkward position of bombing Daesh in support of what it fears are radical fundamentalists allied with al-Qaeda. But Washington bites the bullet and does bomb Daesh, and the fundamentalist rebels chase it out of these northern positions in Aleppo province.

So President Obama goes back to Erdogan and says, I want Turkey to block Daesh from infiltrating Syria along the Turkish border from Azaz to Jarabulus, north of Aleppo and to either side. Otherwise we’ll use the Kurds again to accomplish this. We can’t be dependent on al-Qaeda linked forces like this.

The Turks really had not wanted to get involved militarily in Syria, though they were happy to let supplies and men through to the rebels, without inquiring too closely into who exactly the rebels were. But now there was a prospect of a new Syrian-Kurdish state, Rojava, bordering southeastern Turkey. And unlike Iraqi Kurdistan, this state would be ruled by a PKK branch or ally, evoking for Turkish leaders the horrors of the dirty war of the 1980s and 1990s when 30,000 died in eastern Anatolia. (I’m not saying that YPG is necessarily dangerous to Turkey in that way, only that Ankara fears it could whip up secessionist and far left sentiments in Turkey’s southeast).

So on Sunday Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announces that Turkey will build a fence along its border with Turkey and might send troops in to secure a 25-mile strip on the Syrian side, as a buffer zone protecting Turkish territory from the fighting to its south.

Then the Turkish military uses its contacts in the more liberal Turkish press to deny any such invasion plan.

turk_syr

What do the Turkish chiefs of staff propose? They would station troops along the Syrian border between Jarabulus and Azaz, that is, behind Aleppo province, picking up the slack where the Kurdish line at Kobane ends. The would not go in and establish a buffer zone but would secure the border from infiltration and would use artillery and aerial bombardment against any guerrilla group, especially Daesh, that came into the 25-mile deep buffer zone. In short, they would create a DMZ with Daesh and other fundamentalist rebels to the south. This DMZ would have the effect of cutting Daesh off decisively from resupply via Turkey, since the Kurds hold the border territory from Kobane east to Jazira and the Turkish military holds it west from Kobane to Azaz. Likely if this is done, Daesh will be strangled even more quickly than would otherwise be the case, and Turkish-backed groups like Ahrar al-Sham will benefit (it is fundamentalist and tightly intertwined with al-Qaeda, but mainly focused on Idlib and Aleppo provinces).

Davutoglu and Erdogan clearly want the buffer zone to extend east along the border of Syrian Kurdistan (“Rojava”), but the generals appear to be pushing back on this idea.

The generals are using Hurriyet to signal that no new government has been cobbled together yet after the recent elections, and that Davutoglu therefore does not have the sort of popular mandate that would justify him going around invading other countries. They clearly also fear a backlash from Russia, China and Iran if they send troops into Syria with no UN Security Council resolution allowing the use of force in that country, and in the absence of an attack by Daesh on Turkey. That is why they propose a DMZ with artillery at the ready– if Daesh violates it by attacking Turkey, then they would be justified in using deadly force in self-defense.

Turkey has so far escaped most of the severe disruptions of the Syrian war, even though it has a long border with that country. Erdogan and Davutoglu are now bringing it into the fray as a belligerent, with possibly deadly consequences for social peace and its economy.

But it isn’t even clear what if anything will actually be attempted, given military reluctance and the lack of an actual government in Ankara. If anything of this nature is attempted, certainly it will change the dynamics in the region.

So that’s the story.

—-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

NRT English: “Turkey prepared for every contingency in Syria, PM says”

Tehran Press on Talks: From “Iran will be US Strategic Ally” to “US Sanctions here to stay”

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Iranian press has reacted in a whole range of ways to the current round of negotiations at Vienna between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5 + 1) over its civilian nuclear enrichment program.

Moderates and liberals are understandably enthusiastic.

Moderate Daily Arman-e Emruz, Tehran, in Persian 23 Jun 2015, published an interview with Dr. Mehdi Mottaharnia, a political scientist (trans. BBC Monitoring):

“Motahharnia: In my view, within the next decade, Iran and America will be two strategic allies. On the basis of foreign policy logic, in view of its domestic and foreign potentials, Iran should play an effective role in the club of world powers. I believe that if Iran plays her cards well in the field and if she can make good use of her assets, in the future she will be able to turn the G-20 club into the G-21 club, and she will be able to play an influential global role in the second layer behind the G-8 club…”

“After the Lausanne agreement [presumably final agreement], the pressures by political extremists in Iran will be reduced, although they will be making more noise and ballyhoo. All this noise and ballyhoo by political extremists is “escaping forward” [a show of defiance]. The extremists are worried that they may be asked why they did not act rationally at the time when they were in charge and why they raised the cost [of their actions] to the nation.

So Mottaharnia (whose Ph.D. is from the University of Hawaii) sees a nuclear deal as a huge geopolitical shift, allowing the US and Iran to form a new strategic partnership and profoundly weakening the hardliners inside Iran. He went on to suggest that this policy of the Obama administration was intended to outflank China’s New Silk Road initiative.

In contrast, over at Javan, Tehran, on 22 June 2015, Ja’far Takbiri predicted pessimistically that even if a deal is reached on Iran’s enrichment program, the US will retain substantial sanctions on Iran on the pretext that it is supporting “terrorists” like Hizbullah (while ignoring that the Shiite militias supporting Iran are the only hope of defeating ISIL/ Daesh). He covers the long history of US antipathy to the Islamic Republic, from Ronald Reagan backing Iraq’s war on Iran in the 1980s to the recent assassination of several nuclear engineers.

Likewise the conservative Khorasan said “A few people inside [Iran] are beating the drum of ‘deal at any price’ because of their political interests. They even consider the psychological effects of a deal to be more important than the principle of lifting of the sanctions, while, even from the perspective of an external observer, a bad deal will be of no help to the country’s economy; rather, under some circumstances, it may have negative effects for the economy.” (27 June, BBC Monitoring)

The Speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, said on Sunday that the US had already made the key concession, that Iran can enrich for nuclear fuel, and that Washington may as well now be reasonable and stop making more and more demands. (Likely he was referring to US desire to inspect Iranian military bases, which the country’s clerical leader, Ali Khamenei, has said is out of the question. – Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Tehran, in Persian 0640gmt 28 June 2015

In general, moderates and liberals expect any deal to usher in vast changes in Iran’s economy and diplomacy, repositioning it as a growing Asian economy and a strategic ally of the US. Hard liners, downplay any expectation that loosening US sanctions will necessarily transform the economy, and expect US sanctions and interference in the Iranian experiment to continue even in the unlikely event that a deal is reached.

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Related video:

Reuters: “Iran nuclear talks could extend past deadline”

No, GOP, biblical Marriage was not between one man and one woman

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The freak-out by the Republican presidential candidates over the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage provokes me to revise and reprise the points below. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have formally pledged: “We will not honor any decision by the Supreme Court which will force us to violate a clear biblical understanding of marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman.” Sen. Ted Cruz also called on Americans to ignore the SCOTUS ruling.

Does that mean the rest of us can repudiate the decision making W. president in 2000, and can refuse to recognize corporations as persons?

In any case, the Bible doesn’t actually say anything at all about homosexuality, since it is a form of identity that only came into being in modernity. (Same-sex intimacy has been there all along, but in most premodern societies it was not a subculture, though medieval male bortherhoods were common and in South Asia there were hijras).

But wackiest of all is the idea that the Bible sees marriage as between one man and one woman. I don’t personally get how you could, like, actually read the Bible and come to that conclusion (see below). Even if you wanted to argue that the New Testament abrogates all the laws in the Hebrew Bible, there isn’t anything in the NT that clearly forbids polygamy, either, and it was sometimes practiced in the early church, including by priests. Josephus makes it clear that polygamy was still practiced among the Jews of Jesus’ time. Any attempt to shoe-horn stray statements in the New Testament about a man and a woman being married into a commandment of monogamy is anachronistic. Likely it was the Roman Empire that established Christian monogamy as a norm over the centuries. The Church was not even allowed to marry people until well after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, since it was an imperial prerogative.

Ancient scripture can be a source of higher values and spiritual strength, but any time you in a literal-minded way impose specific legal behavior because of it, you’re committing anachronism. Since this is the case, fundamentalists are always highly selective, trying to impose parts of the scripture on us but conveniently ignoring the parts even they can’t stomach as modern persons.

1. In Exodus 21:10 it is clearly written of the husband: “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.” This is the same rule as the Qur’an in Islam, that another wife can only be taken if the two are treated equally.

2. Let’s take Solomon, who maintained 300 concubines or sex slaves. 1 Kings 11:3: “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.” Led him astray! That’s all the Bible minded about this situation? Abducting 300 people and keeping them immured for sex? And the objection is only that they had a lot of diverse religions and interested Solomon in them? (By the way, this is proof that he wasn’t Jewish but just a legendary Canaanite polytheist). I think a settled gay marriage is rather healthier than imprisoning 300 people in your house to have sex with at your whim.

3. Not only does the Bible authorize slavery and human trafficking, but it urges slaves to “submit themselves” to their masters. It should be remembered that masters had sexual rights over their property assuming the slave-woman was not betrothed to another, and so this advice is intended for concubines as well as other slaves. And, the Bible even suggests that slaves quietly accept sadism and cruelty from their masters: 1 Peter 2:18: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” So a nice gay marriage between two legal equals with no acts of cruelty would be much better than this biblical nightmare.

4. Then there is Abraham, who made a sex slave of his wife’s slave, the Egyptian girl Hagar, and then abandoned her to cruel treatment.

Genesis 16:1-6:

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” 6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

So let’s get this straight. Abraham isn’t said to have married Hagar. Apparently he and Sarah had separate property, because Hagar remains her slave. So he slept with someone else’s slave and got her pregnant. And then when that caused trouble between his wife and her slave, he washed his hands of his property-lover and let his wife mistreat her. As we know from 1 Peter, Hagar was supposed graciously to put up with this, but she was made of fiercer stuff than that, and you really have to root for her in this rather sick family situation.

5. According Mark 12:19, guys, if your brother kicks the bucket, you have to marry your sister-in-law and knock her up. Since the Bible approved of multiple wives, you have to do this even if you’re already married. If you think in-laws are hard to get along with now, try being married to them.

6. So I don’t think this happens very much, but guys, in biblical marriage you might have to cut your wife’s hand off if she defends you too vigorously. That’s right. Say you’re at a bar and this big bald badass with tats starts smashing your face in. And say your wife likes you and wants to stop the guy from giving you a concussion. Say she reaches down and gets him by the balls. So the Bible would reward her for loyalty and bravery and fast thinking, right?

Nope. Now you have to cut off her hand. I mean have to. You’re not allowed to have a moment of weakness and think about how pretty her fingers are. Off with it, to the wrist

GOP, you think I’m making this up, right?

Deuteronomy 25:11-12: “11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.”

I’m not sure exactly what kind of weird marriage Deuteronomy is recommending, where certain actions taken by they wife to keep herself from being turned into a widow are punished by her husband by chopping off her hand.

7. The Bible doesn’t even approve of marriage at all! 1 Corinthians 7:8 “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.” So contrary to the GOP’s notion that the Bible authorizes only a single kind of marriage, of which it approves, actually it much prefers believers to die out in a single generation. Only the weak and unbiblical get married.

So this is the real problem. People like Huckabee and Cruz shouldn’t be married in the first place, much less holding up some imaginary ideal of biblical marriage for everybody. And if all the biblical literalists would just obey 1 Corinthians, the whole problem would be over with in just a generation. Then the rest of us could get some peace and make rational policy on social issues.

And as for getting married biblically, you can do that in all kinds of imaginative ways– take two wives and someone else’s sex slave as Abraham did, or 300 sex slaves as Solomon did (not to mention the 700 wives), or your brother’s widow in addition to your own wife. And remember, if your sex slave runs away because you’re cruel to the person, the Bible (Philemon) says that other people have the duty to return the slave to you, i.e. basically imposes the duty of trafficking slaves back to sadistic sex maniacs who exploit them. But if the owner is nice and a good Christian, he might consider letting the sex slave go. But he doesn’t have to.

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Related video:

The Young Turks: “Huckabee: Supreme Being Overrules The Supreme Court”

Lone Wolves and Soft Targets: Or how our Press, Politicians are being Played by ISIL

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

I saw a lot of headlines on Friday trying to link violent attacks by radical Muslims in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, but I just don’t think there is a connection. Even the concerted attempt to find a pattern here is probably misguided. Worse, it plays into the hands of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), which wants us to think it more powerful and widespread than it is. In fact, its capital is under siege by leftist Kurds and it hasn’t done well in the past week.

The murder in Lyons was committed by an employee against his boss, though the murderer used Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) symbols. It was probably just a murder committed by a disturbed individual, and likely had to do with workplace resentments. French police at the moment don’t see it as the act of an organization. If it was a murder, well, something like 45 of those take place every day in the US. Our looney murderers prefer Batman suits or Ninja outfits to the black Salafi flag, but then they are haunted by different paranoid fears.

Just as with Lyons, the attack in Sousse in Tunisia was carried out by a lone individual. He was a deadly lone individual, killing over two dozen with his Kalashnikov semi-automatic. His attack was aimed at keeping the tourists from coming this year. Tourism is 7 percent of the Tunisian GDP, and the government gets a cut of that through taxes. The radical vigilantes used to do those things in Egypt in the 1990s, too. The secularists of Tunisia Call won parliament last October, and the fringe of far right have gone crazy because of this outcome. They are a fringe. Remember, the majority of Tunisians voted secular last fall.

The bomber in Kuwait who detonated his payload in the midst of a Shiite mosque pretty obviously knew what he was doing. Kuwait is a small country of 3.3 million, of which only 1.2 million are citizens. Some 30 percent of the population is Shiite. The bomber was baiting them. As with Iraq and Syria, Daesh wants a civil war in Kuwait, in the midst of which it could hope to make a coup and come to power.

Salafi Sunnis in Kuwait have sent millions to the rebels in Syria, and likely haven’t been too careful about who got the money and arms. Shiite Iran and Iraq are backing President Bashar al-Assad, and while we don’t know that the Shiite mosque congregation are political, they were clearly targeted by Daesh. This is the first time the Syrian violence has come around to bite a GCC country on the behind. It may not be the last, and may provoke a rethinking of Syrian policy on the part of the Kuwaitis.

We live in a world where three guys, each with powerful weapons, can shake the world if they act on a single day. There’s something wrong with that world- it is way too vulnerable.

—–

Related video:

RT: “Shiite mosque attacked in Kuwait, ISIS claims responsibility”

But the point is, this was just one guy.

Top 6 Achievements of Obamacare: (Hint, millions more insured)

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) has beaten back all judicial challenges, it is worth revisiting its vast success. A single-payer system would have been far preferable. But the present system is substantially better than nothing. As Jay Bookman pointed out in early May in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, none of the dire predictions of its critics have come true. There has been no jump in health-care costs. In fact, medical inflation has leveled off. The number of people who lost their insurance was no higher after the advent of Obamacare than it had been in previous years. It hasn’t killed employment– rather employment is up. Let us consider the success of the ACA.

1. Rand reports that in summer of 2013, there were 42 million uninsured Americans. By February of 2015, that number had fallen to 25.8 million. That is, nearly 17 million more Americans have health care than before Obamacare.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 1.52.44 AM

2. With regard to percentages, the country’s uninsured rate was 17.1% in 2013, and it declined dramatically to 11.9% during the first quarter of 2015.

3. People without health care are in a very uncertain situation– they could have a medical emergency any time, and they have nothing to pay the hospital with. They also don’t get preventive care because they don’t pay to go see a doctor if they don’t have to. Obamacare will save an estimated 24,000 lives a year.

4. The International Business Times observed on the implications of the law for racial equality that:

“All racial and ethnic groups showed gains in coverage, but the biggest improvement came among minority groups. The uninsured rate for Hispanics dropped by more than 12 percent; African-American uninsured rates fell more than 9 percent and white uninsured rates fell more than 5 percent.”

5. Women have been especially helped by Obamacare. They now pay the same premiums as men, which did not used to be the case. Even by early January, there had been a 5.5% decline in the number of uninsured women since 2013:

“Up until last year, insurance companies could — and often did — charge women different premiums than men for the same coverage. As of January 1, 2014, the ACA prohibits this gender discrimination. In part because of improved options and affordability, today’s report outlines a significant 5.5 percentage point decline in the uninsured rate among women between the ages of 18 and 64 since 2013.”

6. Many more children how have health care. It had earlier been found that:

“New research documents the long-term benefits of Medicaid coverage in childhood. The National Bureau of Economic Research compared children eligible for Medicaid during childhood to their non-eligible peers and found that the Medicaid-eligible children were more likely to attend college, make greater contributions as adult taxpayers, and live longer than those without coverage.”

Obamacare, some of which is covered by medicaid expansion in sane states, should have the same effect, enriching these lives and enriching us all.

If Southerners want a Symbol, Why not the Moultrie Liberty Flag?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | —

There was a rash of Confederate flag removals on Wednesday. The governor of Alabama had it removed from the statehouse. The governor of Virginia recalled vanity plates with the flag on them. Some Mississippi legislators proposed removing it from the state flag. Amazon, E-Bay and other retailers announced they would not carry the flag or memorabilia with the flag on it. Dismayed supporters of the flag said it represented Southern “valor” in the Civil War.

Here’s an idea. If Southerners want a regional symbol of pride and valor, why not go back to the Moultrie or Liberty flag?

Fort_Moultrie_flag.svg

It was flown by South Carolinians in the fight against the Redcoats during the Revolutionary War and was the first American flag to fly over the South.

Best of all, the flag has the word “Liberty” written into the crescent moon, underscoring this key American value, so important for all peoples living in the South. It is better than the Gadsden flag (with the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake) because it expresses a positive value and emotion rather than a negative, reactive one.

The Revolutionary War is one that African Americans can take pride in, even if it did not free the slaves in the South. One fifth of the northern Revolutionary War army was made up of African-Americans. Even in the South, Wikipedia notes, citing historian Eric Foner:

“Because of manpower shortages at sea, both the Continental Navy and Royal Navy signed African Americans into the navy. Even southern colonies, which worried about putting guns into the hands of slaves for the army, had no qualms about using blacks to pilot vessels and to handle the ammunition on ships. In state navies, some blacks served as pilots; South Carolina had significant numbers of black pilots.”

Thus, African-Americans served in one branch of the Continental military under this flag and can take pride in it, and in their role in beginning the process of establishing liberty in the South, a role that continued in the 1860s and the 1960s, through to today.

From Wikipedia:

“The Moultrie Flag

In 1775, Colonel William Moultrie was asked by the Revolutionary Council of Safety to design a flag for the South Carolina troops to use during the American Revolutionary War. Moultrie’s design had the blue of the militia’s uniforms and the crescent. It was first flown at Fort Johnson.

This flag was flown in the defense of a new fortress on Sullivan’s Island, when Moultrie faced off against a British fleet that hadn’t lost a battle in a century.

In the 16-hour battle on June 28, 1776, the flag was shot down, but Sergeant William Jasper ran out into the open, raising it and rallying the troops until it could be mounted again. This gesture was so heroic, saving Charleston, South Carolina, from conquest for four years, that the flag came to be the symbol of the Revolution, and liberty, in the state and the new nation.

Soon popularly known as either the Liberty Flag or Moultrie Flag, it became the standard of the South Carolinian militia, and was presented in Charleston, by Major General Nathanael Greene, when that city was liberated at the end of the war. Greene described it as having been the first American flag to fly over the South.”

N.B. Branches of the author’s family have been in the Shenandoah Valley in Northern Virginia since the 18th century and both his parents were born there.

As 700 Die in Pakistan from Extreme Heat, Pakistanis Deny Climate Change

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Pakistan is in the midst of an extreme heat wave with highs around 110 degrees F., which has killed 700 persons in the past 3 days. Three weeks ago it was India’s turn, when extreme heat killed 1200 in the country’s south.

Despite the severe dangers to Pakistan posed by climate change, opinion polls show that only about a quarter of Pakistanis view the issue as a powerful threat. In contrast, over 80 percent of South Koreans are afraid of climate change.

South Asia is already unbearably hot in the summer. I’ve lived there in May and June, which are the worst, before the monsoon rains come. The heat is unbearable, but many Pakistanis have no choice but to bear it. Pakistan’s electricity capacity is inadequate and there are frequent electricity outages, which they call “load shedding” (our “brownouts”). Hot weather and drought hurt electricity production, because about half the country’s electricity is generated by hydro, i.e. dams. When the water levels decline, not as much electricity is made.

Average temperatures are set to go up by at least 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit because of the carbon dioxide we have already spilled into the atmosphere by burning petroleum, coal and natural gas. That will put Pakistan’s temperatures up to more like 114. It will go on up from there if we don’t find ways to stop emitting so much CO2.

It gets worse. Climate change has already produced massive flooding in each of the past 5 years. It appears to be pushing the jet stream north, drawing the monsoon rains up north.

Pakistani agriculture is also at risk. It depends on the Indus Valley river for irrigation .., the head waters of which are created by melting glaciers in the Himalayas. The glaciers are now melting. Ultimately, Pakistan itself could be largely a desert, unable to support the teeming millions it now does. Well before then, the crops it traditionally depends on may cease growing because of the extreme heat.

Rising seas threaten lower Sindh with more salinization of the soil.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Overseas development Institute: ” Ali Tauqeer Sheikh – Climate change & the post 2015 development framework”