Tuesday, August 27, 2019
It is the presence of so many plans that make notable the one policy area for which Ms. Warren doesn’t have a clear strategy: health care. That missing agenda item speaks volumes about the shrewdness—or deception—of her campaign.
To be sure, Ms. Warren suggests she has a health-care plan. In the first Democratic debate, she stated she was “with” Bernie Sanders on Medicare for All. She appeared to double down on this commitment in the second debate, joining Mr. Sanders to rough up his detractors, and promising to “fight for” single payer.In reality, she’s been far less clear about what she will do and when. Wade through Ms. Warren’s detailed website, and you’ll find no health-care section. She avoids specifics on the campaign trail, avoids the whole topic when she can. She has refused to answer yes-or-no candidate questions on health topics. Read the second debate transcript closely, and you’ll notice she spends most of her time arguing that insurance companies bring in too much and pay out too little.
When the New York Times asked this spring about her health-care plan, she listed her top priorities: protecting ObamaCare, reducing drug costs, and getting “a consumers’ bill of rights for private insurance so that people don’t get ripped off.” Beyond that, she said she’d “keep moving us to a place where everybody is covered at the lowest possible cost.” She has repeatedly noted that there are many different (incremental) “paths” to Medicare for All—such as lowering the age of eligibility, or letting employers buy into the program.
This isn’t a plan; it’s a hedge. It’s notable because it comes as most of the Democratic field has quietly acknowledged that killing private insurance is a surefire political loser. Five of the seven U.S. senators running for the presidency are officially sponsors of Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for All bill. Yet in recent weeks, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand have all backed away from the provision that would prohibit private insurance. Most now instead support giving Americans a public “option” alongside private insurance—joining the likes of Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke. Ms. Warren’s vagueness exposes the limits of her liberal “populism.” She calls herself a progressive, but her campaign has focused on capturing “forgotten” voters by uniting them against “corrupt” Washington, “corrupt” Wall Street, “corrupt” “Big Ag.” Her playbook is relentlessly monotone: Highlight an unpleasant necessity of life (student debt, child-care bills), blame it on the rich and powerful, propose government as the solution.Her pickle with health care is that more than 100 million Americans still prefer their private insurance to a government replacement. That’s the “popular” will. Medicare for All would also require Ms. Warren to go beyond her wealth tax on millionaires and billionaires, the revenue from which she has earmarked for other programs—free tuition, student-debt forgiveness, child-care subsidies. Medicare for All, as Mr. Sanders has acknowledged, would require her to tax the middle class—which also isn’t very populist.
Ms. Warren faces Democratic primary concerns that she is unelectable—too extreme to win nationwide in November. Her campaign understands that a clear, committed plan for Medicare for All would add to that liability.
She initially seemed set to get around all this by constraining herself to more insurance regulation. But Mr. Sanders and his voters are turning Medicare for All into a progressive litmus test. The Vermont independent is increasingly highlighting his rivals’ failure to embrace his plan as evidence of their phoniness. Ms. Warren wants and needs those voters, especially should Mr. Sanders leave the race. A more modest health-care plan would alienate them. How to straddle this? She can’t. Which is why the woman who has a detailed plan for everything, has no official plan for an issue that Gallup reports 80% of voters said was “extremely” or “very” important to their 2018 vote. So far, it’s worked for her. Progressive activists read from her second debate performance that she is fully committed to Medicare for All. Middle-of-the-road Democrats read from her other comments, and her omissions, that she may settle on an insurance-regulation plan, accompanied by a proposal to expand Medicare incrementally, or over time.
The question is how long she gets away with it. If this election is as mind-bendingly consequential as Democrats claim, surely the public deserves to know Ms. Warren’s plan for the U.S. health-care system. Maybe some intrepid debate moderator might even ask in September: “Ms. Warren, why don’t you have a plan for that?”
The Israeli government is deeply concerned about the possibility of new U.S.-Iran nuclear talks, which President Trump discussed today alongside President Emmanuel Macron of France, 3 Israeli Cabinet ministers and 2 senior Israeli officials involved in Iran policy tell me.
Why it matters: The pressure campaign against Iran has been the main point of collaboration between the Netanyahu government and the Trump administration, and Netanyahu saw Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal as a signature foreign policy achievement. A loosening of Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran could create tension with Israel.
Behind the scenes: Israeli officials tell me the prospect of renewed talks between the U.S. and Iran has been discussed by Israel's Security Cabinet several times lately.
- The Israeli government is concerned that a summit between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could happen very soon. They fear the ensuing process will be similar to U.S.-North Korea talks, thus taking pressure off the Iranian regime.
What they're saying:
"We have no interest in talks between the U.S. and Iran, but our ability to influence Trump or confront him on this issue is pretty limited."— Israeli Cabinet minister
"We were very lucky that until now the Iranians rejected all of Trump's proposals for talks."— Senior Israeli official involved in Iran policy
Driving the news: Macron said today at the press conference with Trump that he thinks conditions are ripe for a meeting in the coming weeks.
- Trump confirmed that he'd be willing to meet Rouhani, who said hours earlier that he'd be ready to meet Trump if such a meeting would solve the problems of the Iranian people.
What to watch: One possible venue could be next month's UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Trump, Rouhani and Macron are all expected to attend. Netanyahu, meanwhile, might not be at the annual meeting because it falls 10 days after Israel's elections.
“What you hope to do is leave behind a shelf of books,” Salman Rushdie once said, quoting Martin Amis. “You want to be able to walk into a bookstore and say, ‘From here to here, it’s me.’”
A shelf of books. One wishes Amis had been more specific. Rushdie fills a shelf, even two, nicely. He is the author of nearly 20 books — six published in the last 11 years alone, but of diminishing quality. The novels are imaginative as ever, but they are also increasingly wobbly, bloated and mannered. He is a writer in free fall. What happened?
Rushdie made his name on the breathtaking originality of his 1981 novel, “Midnight’s Children,” the story of a boy “handcuffed to history,” born at the exact second of Indian independence. It was told in the voice of Bombay — rowdy, musical, tender and profane — a new voice for a new literature of migration and identity; the wave of writers influenced by the book were called “Midnight’s Grandchildren.” He followed it with “Shame,” on the birth of Pakistan, his angriest, funniest, finest novel, to my mind. His next, “The Satanic Verses,” sealed his literary immortality. The Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, and sent the writer into hiding for nine years “a fretful, scuttling existence,” as he described it in his memoir, “Joseph Anton.”
That famous style has congealed in recent years; the flamboyance that once felt so free now seems strenuous and grating. “If he had a fault, it was that of ostentation, of seeking to be not only himself but a performance of himself,” Rushdie writes of a character in his novel “The Enchantress of Florence,” which could read like stinging self-critique. The later books — “Shalimar the Clown,” “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights,” “The Golden House” — are all tics, technique and hammy narration that try to toupee over patchy stories, exhausted themes, types passing as characters. For a writer so frequently praised for ingenuity, Rushdie actually follows a formula of sorts. You could make yourself a bingo card: Classic Novel or Myth used as Scaffolding, Femme Fatale, Story within the Story (recounted by a Garrulous Narrator), Topical Concerns, Defense of Hybridity.
Let’s play. The new novel, “Quichotte” is a retelling of Don Quixote (there’s our Scaffold), with debts to “Back to the Future,” the Odyssey, “Lolita,” Pinocchio, the Eugène Ionesco play “Rhinoceros,” and — why not — the 12th century epic, “The Conference of the Birds.” Our hero, a traveling salesman of Indian origin, becomes addled by his obsession with American television (in the original, the Don is addicted to heraldic romances). He begins to believe himself an inhabitant of “that other, brighter world” and resolves to win the heart of a beautiful television host (meet our Femme Fatale), Salma R. He sets off in pursuit of his beloved, and channels for himself a companion, a son he calls, naturally, Sancho. In their quest they encounter an America of Trump voters and vicious racism (allowing for that Defense of Hybridity) and become tangled in a subplot involving the opioid crisis (Topical Concerns — check!). This story is revealed to us as a work in progress, however, the creation of a second-rate crime writer, another uneasy Indian in America who writes under the name Sam duChamp (a.k.a. our Garrulous Narrator), who has some unfinished business back home.
I didn’t even mention the mastodon invasion. Or the rip in the cosmos. Or the character inspired by Elon Musk. Or the unhappy appearance, toward the end of the book, of a Jiminy Cricket-type character. “This isn’t really happening,” Sancho says. This isn’t really happening, I thought.
Of all genres, fantasy, E.M. Forster has argued, requires perhaps the greatest adjustment on the part of the reader, a special suspension of disbelief. It is not necessarily a great adjustment but it must be accounted for, and it must be made, otherwise the reader will be left on shore, watching the author’s proud, meaningless exertions with increasing detachment and coldness. When Rushdie’s previous books have succeeded it is because he has been guided by this awareness and found ways to entice us on board, to poke fun at his own excesses. In “Midnight’s Children,” blunt Padma performs the function of in-house literary critic: “Here is Padma at my elbow, bullying me back into the world of linear narrative, the universe of what-happened-next,” our garrulous narrator tells us.The ability to believe in the preposterous is, of course, at the very heart of “Don Quixote,” called the first modern novel with its commentaries on fiction, metafiction and reality. “He doubts everything and he believes everything,” Don Quixote says of Sancho Panza, a fine precondition for reading fantasy. “It is so, it isn’t so,” Arab storytellers would traditionally begin their tales, as Rushdie writes in “The Satanic Verses.” There are feints at exploring what this threshold might mean at a time when notions of truth and reality seem so tattered. But Rushdie’s narrative impulses are centrifugal; they lie in tossing in celebrity cameos and literary allusions, in sending new plots into orbit in the hope they might lend glitter and ballast to a work sorely in need of both, sorely in need of tethering to the world, the concerted thinking and feeling of realism, not magic.
As Cervantes’s Don Quixote tells Sancho: Teeth are more precious than diamonds.
During recent briefings and meetings, General Bajwa had said more than once that he was not interested in an extension.
Convincing the General?
Bajwa and Sharif
Why Bajwa is important for PM
Can Bajwa defend the government?
If Imran Khan is unable to deliver, the military will replace him even before he gets to say ‘what’.
PM & army chief on same page
The General’s hubris
Puppet and the puppeteer
Pakistan PM’s score card on altering the economic, foreign and security policies to usher in a welfare state is dismal.
Bangladesh’s top court has ruled that women need no longer declare if they are virgins on marriage certificates after a five-year legal battle by women’s rights groups trying to protect women’s privacy and potential humiliation.
Marriage laws in the Muslim-majority country in South Asia had required a bride had to state on her marriage certificate if she was a “kumari” - meaning virgin - a widow, or divorced.
But the nation’s High Court on Sunday ordered the government to remove the word “kumari” and replace it with “unmarried”, a move welcomed on Tuesday but women’s rights groups.
According to the ruling, the groom would now also have to disclose if he was unmarried, divorced or a widower.
No one from the government was available to comment about the change or when it was to take effect.
Ainun Nahar Siddiqua, one of two lawyers involved in the case, said the case dated back to 2014 with the filing of a writ petition to change in the form provided under the 1974 Bangladesh Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act.“It’s a ruling that gives us the belief that we can fight and create more changes for women in the future,” Siddiqua, of Bangladesh Legal Aid And Services Trust (BLAST), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We filed a writ petition because asking whether someone’s a virgin or not is against the person’s right to privacy.”
Mohammad Ali Akbar Sarker, a Muslim marriage registrar from Dhaka, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that registrars like him were waiting for the Ministry of Law and Justice to officially inform them about the changes in the form.
“I have conducted many marriages in Dhaka and I have often been asked why men have the liberty to not disclose their status but women don’t. I always told them this wasn’t in my hands. I guess I won’t be asked that question anymore,” said Sarker.