1. Opinion

Selected readings from the left and from the right

By Jim Verhulst

Of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board compiled these summaries.

We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.


From "Health Care in the U.S. Should Be Affordable and Accessible," by Beverly Gologorsky in the Nation.

The context, from the author, who broke her hip, which costs her in so many ways: What do you do when sickness occurs, if you aren't rich? Suffer the illness, for sure, and then suffer the out-of-pocket costs afterward.

The excerpt: We are all somewhat powerless when sickness strikes, but that those of us who aren't wealthy suffer so much more. The thought of being without insurance is frightening indeed, yet in our present system we pay in so many ways for the existence of those insurance companies. We pay in co-pay; we pay in not getting treatment we need if insurance deems it unnecessary (no matter what your doctor says); we pay yearly out-of-pocket fees. ... At present, we have no alternative to the existing health-insurance system, yet it is actually failing us all in so many ways.

From "Thankfully, the Democrats Are Playing Hardball With the Left," by Meagan Day in Jacobin Magazine.

The context, from the author: The Democrats' congressional campaign arm is trying to blacklist the Left. We welcome their hatred.

The excerpt: Cutting off the Left has the potential to backfire on the center, pushing candidates to be more courageously independent in order to win the hearts of the masses — the only way to make up for what they lack in top-down support. And in the process of running those audacious insurgent campaigns, progressive and democratic socialist politicians can raise the expectations of the working class and create new constituencies for policies and politics that the Democratic center dismisses out of hand.

From "Big Pharma Is Pushing a Big Lie," by Audrey Farley in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: People are dying because they can't afford necessary medications, but drug manufacturers say they need high prices to fund future breakthroughs.

The excerpt: It's common for industry representatives to tell stories of individuals whose lives have been saved by innovation — or of individuals who are desperately waiting for a breakthrough. These emotional appeals should not distract from the facts: Big Pharma does not apply the majority of profits from costly medicines to research and development (R&D); Big Pharma does not drive innovation; and Big Pharma does not meaningfully invest in treatments for rare and neglected diseases.


From "Our Own Private Singapore," by Kevin D. Williamson in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Facebook and that island nation both insist that their censorship serves the safety of the public.

The excerpt: Let us give Singapore and Facebook the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are motivated by concerns that are in the main to be admired. The end results are no less risible: If American society is really so fragile that (Infowars) Alex Jones presents an existential threat to the republic, then we should send our British cousins a letter of apology and ask to be readmitted as a colony, if they'll have us. Likewise, if Singapore truly is going to be rocked, and not in a good way, by a Katy Perry song ("I Kissed a Girl" was prohibited as homosexual propaganda) then it is a pitiable little island indeed, to quaver at such a colossus as that.

From "Is America Ready for John Bolton's War With Iran?" by Scott Ritter in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: National Security Advisor John Bolton's announcement this week that the U.S. is deploying a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region seemed perfectly framed to put America on a war footing with Iran. And it is.

The excerpt: By purposefully escalating tensions with Iran using manufactured intelligence about an all too real threat, Bolton is setting the country up for a war it is not prepared to fight and most likely cannot win. This point is driven home by the fact that (Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo has been recalled from his trip to participate in a National Security Council meeting where the Pentagon will lay out in stark detail the realities of a military conflict with Iran, including the high costs. (Hopefully, they'll emphasize that Iran would win such a war simply by not losing — all they'd have to do is ride out any American attack.) That Israel is behind the scenes supplying the intelligence and motivation makes Bolton's actions even more questionable. It shows that it is John Bolton, not Iran, who poses the greatest threat to American national security today.

From "Government Surveillance Of Political Activists Is Scary, Illegal And Common," by Luke Wachob in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: When powerful government agencies don't like what you have to say, they have many tools to shut you down. One of the most effective is putting you under a microscope.

The excerpt: Whether the victim is a group on the left, right, center, or something else entirely, government tracking of the members and activities of advocacy groups makes it more likely that a corrupt agency or individual will one day wreak havoc on their constitutional rights. The effect, and sometimes even the goal, of this harassment is to impede or altogether stop a group's activities.