The problem with repealing Obamacare

The health plan popularly known as Obamacare is clunky and confusing but the big benefit that made it worthwhile (at least as a stop-gap until a single-payer system was implemented) was that tens of millions of previously uninsured people were now able to get access to health care. Three other major benefits were that people could not be denied coverage for so-called pre-existence conditions (an appalling feature of previous plans that insurance companies heavily exploited to deny coverage for many people) children could stay on their parents’ plans until they were 26, and the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid.
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An American teenager was murdered by the US government for nothing

The number of civilians who have been killed by the US government in other countries using drones now runs into the many hundreds at least. I have written about some of them, in particular the murder in a US drone strike of 16-year old American Abdulrahman Awlaki while he was eating with two cousins at an outdoor café in Yemen in 2011. He was the son of Anwar al Awlaki a once Bush-supporting but later pro-al Qaeda imam who was also killed in a drone strike in Yemen two weeks before. The father had been estranged from the son and the son had been living with grandparents in Yemen while trying to contact him. The son had never been accused of any links to terrorism
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Reinforcing the ‘ugly American’ stereotype abroad

There have been so many reports recently of people going on racist rants that, sadly, it has ceased to be a novelty worth mentioning and is becoming a routine fact of life. But then I came across this one about a United Airlines flight from Sydney to San Francisco that had to be diverted to Auckland because a passenger objected to being seated between two people of apparently South Asian ethnicity.
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Are you a real child of god or merely an adopted one?

From time to time I come across theological debates of the kind I used to concern myself with during the time when I was a religious believer. Usually these are familiar ones that recycle old controversies but last week I came across one that was new to me that was prompted by an evangelical preacher named Paula White, yet another proponent of the infamous ‘prosperity gospel’ that tells suckers believers that if they ‘plant a seed’, i.e., send the evangelist money, they will reap financial rewards. White has been invited to participate at Donald Trump’s inauguration and some other evangelicals are criticizing that move, accusing White of promoting heretical views.
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And the beat goes on …

The Washington Post seems to have decided to send its credibility into the dumpster by rushing into print with alarmist headlines any story that suggests that Russia is pretty much waging cyberwarfare on the US without bothering to do basic journalistic due diligence. The latest is a story that had the headline “Russians hackers penetrate U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, official say”, an alarming claim if it were true. (It has now added a disclaimer that undercuts its own story and even changed the headline to make it less scary.)
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Charlie Brooker reviews 2016

I am not a fan of year-end reviews but I will make an exception for Charlie Brooker’s annual sardonic take on events and how the media covers them. He is always entertaining even when I had not heard before of the news that he is commenting on. For those who think that TV in the US has become too lascivious, the clips he showed of some British reality shows are astounding. Those shows make US TV seem extremely prudish by comparison. One of them seems to be a version of these popular matchmaking shows in which the men are shown naked from the waist down and the woman picks the man by comparing their genitals.
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New investigation of government whistleblower retaliation

One of the most shameful episodes of the Obama administration has been the way that they have treated whistleblowers. Chelsea Manning has been severely and inhumanely punished and even tortured for her courageous act in 2010 of releasing the infamous Collateral Murder video that showed US troops in a gunship cheerfully murdering Iraqis that were walking the streets and then attacking a vehicle containing children that came to their rescue. Edward Snowden has been targeted for his courageous release of documents that showed that the US and its allies have been systematically spying on people all over the world. And of course, Julian Assange and WIkiLeaks have been targeted because of their role in releasing the Manning video and other documents. Those who are hoping for Obama to pardon Manning and Snowden expect too much from someone who has shown a massively vindictive streak when it comes to punishing those who dare to show that he and the US government are not driven by noble motives but act cruelly and illegally as it suits them.
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How the mainstream media also propagates fake news

Did you hear the news where recently Julian Assange of WikiLeaks had sharply criticized Hillary Clinton while praising Donald Trump, also saying that Russia had freedom of the press and that was why WikiLeaks has not been releasing documents that revealed secrets of that country, and that Assange had a long and close relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin? This has been all over the mainstream media news and was largely based on an article published on December 24th in the Guardian newspaper, a paper that I read and link to regularly
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The white norm error

There is a peculiar tendency in America with many phenomena (and maybe it exists in other countries too), that when the data are disaggregated by race, to see the statistics for whites as the norm and use the statistics of minorities as a measure of the problem. I made this point strongly in my book The Achievement Gap in US Education where I said such a way of thinking led to people, even well meaning ones, proposing solutions to the educational system that were misguided. Looked at in that way, they see nothing fundamentally wrong with the educational system (after all, whites are doing ok) and the problem lies with the black community for not taking advantage of the educational opportunities. I argued that there were fundamental problems with the entire system and that white students were also not being served well. As a result, they were underachieving but black students were underachieving even more, thus leading to the achievement gap. But by seeing the levels of white achievement as acceptable, the real problem of widespread underachievement were being ignored and wrong, and even harmful, measures being proposed
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What the extremists will do under Trump

In a post a week ago I wondered about how many of the impossible promises Donald Trump made during the campaign he could renege on or water down before his supporters would turn on him. I think he could get away with a lot. Republicans (and many Democrats too if we are honest) are notorious for being able to abandon their loudly stated principles when it serves their partisan needs, and Trump supporters seem even more extreme in their almost cult-like devotion to him personally than run-of-the-mill party members.
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