Thursday, June 25, 2009
While the revolution will not be televised, the YouTube will show people going out on the street and fighting and dying in Iran for their rights.
We're Next if income in-equality, access to healthcare, and lobbying reform is not addressed NOW.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
You know the conservaliars, the HMO's, the pharmaceutical companies, the AMA and their lobbyists are gearing up to kill President Obama's health care reform.They also hate Rep. John Conyers' HR 676, which would expand Medicare to cover all Americans by converting it into a single payer system.The conservaliars save special hateraid for the Canadian Health Care System and don't want to see it replicated on this side of the border.Thy are already slinging the 'socialized medicine' shade at any system that doesn't perpetuate the status quo where they make obscene amounts of money.It all adds up to the average American's health care plan being, 'Don't Get Sick.'
Any moment now I expect them to go dig up or clone Ronald Reagan so they can trot him out to reprise his anti-Medicaid commercials from 1961.
Well, as an American, I'm sick of this crappy system we have now. If little ole embargoed Cuba, Costa Rica and the world major industrialized nations can have universal healthcare for their citizens, what's wrong with the nation that put a man on the moon 40 years ago not being able to do so?
Thanks to Physicians For A National Health Program here's a February 5, 2008 article by Sara Robinson of TomPaine.com busting the conservamyths about the Canadian healthcare system.
Robinson is an American citizen who is a Canadian resident, so she is in an excellent position to compare and contrast the two.
I'll just hit the highlights. The full article is here on the PNHP website.
Here's Renee's Global Comment post as a beneficiary of that system tellin' it like it T-I-S is about her experiences with the Canadian system as well.
1. Canada’s health care system is “socialized medicine.”
False. In socialized medical systems, the doctors work directly for the state. In Canada (and many other countries with universal care), doctors run their own private practices, just like they do in the US. The only difference is that every doctor deals with one insurer, instead of 150. And that insurer is the provincial government, which is accountable to the legislature and the voters if the quality of coverage is allowed to slide.
The proper term for this is “single-payer insurance.” In talking to Americans about it, the better phrase is “Medicare for all.”
2. Doctors are hurt financially by single-payer health care.
True and False. Doctors in Canada do make less than their US counterparts. But they also have lower overhead, and usually much better working conditions. A few reasons for this: First, as noted, they don’t have to charge higher fees to cover the salary of a full-time staffer to deal with over a hundred different insurers, all of whom are bent on denying care whenever possible.
In fact, most Canadian doctors get by quite nicely with just one assistant, who cheerfully handles the phones, mail, scheduling, patient reception, stocking, filing, and billing all by herself in the course of a standard workday.
Second, they don’t have to spend several hours every day on the phone cajoling insurance company bean counters into doing the right thing by their patients. My doctor in California worked a 70-hour week: 35 hours seeing patients, and another 35 hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies. My Canadian doctor, on the other hand, works a 35-hour week, period. She files her invoices online, and the vast majority are simply paid — quietly, quickly, and without hassle. There is no runaround. There are no fights. Appointments aren’t interrupted by vexing phone calls. Care is seldom denied (because everybody knows the rules). She gets her checks on time, sees her patients on schedule, takes Thursdays off, and gets home in time for dinner.
One unsurprising side effect of all this is that the doctors I see here are, to a person, more focused, more relaxed, more generous with their time, more up-to-date in their specialties, and overall much less distracted from the real work of doctoring. You don’t realize how much stress the American doctor-insurer fights put on the day-to-day quality of care until you see doctors who don’t operate under that stress, because they never have to fight those battles at all. Amazingly: they seem to enjoy their jobs.
Third: The average American medical student graduates $140,000 in hock. The average Canadian doctor’s debt is roughly half that.
Finally, Canadian doctors pay lower malpractice insurance fees. When paying for health care constitutes a one of a family’s major expenses, expectations tend to run very high. A doctor’s mistake not only damages the body; it may very well throw a middle-class family permanently into the ranks of the working poor, and render the victim uninsurable for life. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder people are quick to rush to court for redress.
Canadians are far less likely to sue in the first place, since they’re not having to absorb devastating financial losses in addition to any physical losses when something goes awry. The cost of the damaging treatment will be covered. So will the cost of fixing it. And, no matter what happens, the victim will remain insured for life. When lawsuits do occur, the awards don’t have to include coverage for future medical costs, which reduces the insurance company’s liability.
3. Wait times in Canada are horrendous.
True and False again — it depends on which province you live in, and what’s wrong with you. Canada’s health care system runs on federal guidelines that ensure uniform standards of care, but each territory and province administers its own program. Some provinces don’t plan their facilities well enough; in those, you can have waits. Some do better. As a general rule, the farther north you live, the harder it is to get to care, simply because the doctors and hospitals are concentrated in the south. But that’s just as true in any rural county in the U.S.
You can hear the bitching about it no matter where you live, though. The percentage of Canadians who’d consider giving up their beloved system consistently languishes in the single digits. A few years ago, a TV show asked Canadians to name the Greatest Canadian in history; and in a broad national consensus, they gave the honor to Tommy Douglas, the Saskatchewan premier who is considered the father of the country’s health care system. (And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that he was also Kiefer Sutherland’s grandfather.). In spite of that, though, grousing about health care is still unofficially Canada’s third national sport after curling and hockey.
And for the country’s newspapers, it’s a prime watchdogging opportunity. Any little thing goes sideways at the local hospital, and it’s on the front pages the next day. Those kinds of stories sell papers, because everyone is invested in that system and has a personal stake in how well it functions. The American system might benefit from this kind of constant scrutiny, because it’s certainly one of the things that keeps the quality high. But it also makes people think it’s far worse than it is.
Critics should be reminded that the American system is not exactly instant-on, either. When I lived in California, I had excellent insurance, and got my care through one of the best university-based systems in the nation. Yet I routinely had to wait anywhere from six to twelve weeks to get in to see a specialist. Non-emergency surgical waits could be anywhere from four weeks to four months. After two years in the BC system, I’m finding the experience to be pretty much comparable, and often better. The notable exception is MRIs, which were easy in California, but can take many months to get here. (It’s the number one thing people go over the border for.) Other than that, urban Canadians get care about as fast as urban Americans do.
4. You have to wait forever to get a family doctor.
False for the vast majority of Canadians, but True for a few. Again, it all depends on where you live. I live in suburban Vancouver, and there are any number of first-rate GPs in my neighborhood who are taking new patients. If you don’t have a working relationship with one, but need to see a doctor now, there are 24-hour urgent care clinics in most neighborhoods that will usually get you in and out on the minor stuff in under an hour.
It is, absolutely, harder to get to a doctor if you live out in a small town, or up in the territories. But that’s just as true in the U.S. — and in America, the government won’t cover the airfare for rural folk to come down to the city for needed treatment, which all the provincial plans do.
5. You don’t get to choose your own doctor.
Scurrilously False. Somebody, somewhere, is getting paid a lot of money to make this kind of stuff up. The cons love to scare the kids with stories about the government picking your doctor for you, and you don’t get a choice. Be afraid! Be very afraid!
For the record: Canadians pick their own doctors, just like Americans do. And not only that: since it all pays the same, poor Canadians have exactly the same access to the country’s top specialists that rich ones do.
6. Canada’s care plan only covers the basics. You’re still on your own for any extras, including prescription drugs. And you still have to pay for it.
True — but not as big an issue as you might think. The province does charge a small monthly premium (ours is $108/month for a family of four) for the basic coverage. However, most people never even have to write that check: almost all employers pick up the tab for their employees’ premiums as part of the standard benefits package; and the province covers it for people on public assistance or disability.
“The basics” covered by this plan include 100% of all doctor’s fees, ambulance fares, tests, and everything that happens in a hospital — in other words, the really big-ticket items that routinely drive American families into bankruptcy. In BC, it doesn’t include “extras” like medical equipment, prescriptions, physical therapy or chiropractic care, dental, vision, and so on; and if you want a private or semi-private room with TV and phone, that costs extra (about what you’d pay for a room in a middling hotel). That other stuff does add up; but it’s far easier to afford if you’re not having to cover the big expenses, too. Furthermore: you can deduct any out-of-pocket health expenses you do have to pay off your income taxes. And, as every American knows by now, drugs aren’t nearly as expensive here, either.
Filling the gap between the basics and the extras is the job of the country’s remaining private health insurers. Since they’re off the hook for the ruinously expensive big-ticket items that can put their own profits at risk, the insurance companies make a tidy business out of offering inexpensive policies that cover all those smaller, more predictable expenses. Top-quality add-on policies typically run in the ballpark of $75 per person in a family per month — about $300 for a family of four — if you’re stuck buying an individual plan. Group plans are cheap enough that even small employers can afford to offer them as a routine benefit. An average working Canadian with employer-paid basic care and supplemental insurance gets free coverage equal to the best policies now only offered at a few of America’s largest corporations. And that employer is probably only paying a couple hundred dollars a month to provide that benefit.
7. Canadian drugs are not the same.
More preposterous bogosity. They are exactly the same drugs, made by the same pharmaceutical companies, often in the same factories.
The Canadian drug distribution system, however, has much tighter oversight; and pharmacies and pharmacists are more closely regulated. If there is a difference in Canadian drugs at all, they’re actually likely to be safer.
Also: pharmacists here dispense what the doctors tell them to dispense, the first time, without moralizing. I know. It’s amazing.
8. Publicly-funded programs will inevitably lead to rationed health care, particularly for the elderly.
False. And bogglingly so. The papers would have a field day if there was the barest hint that this might be true.
One of the things that constantly amazes me here is how well-cared-for the elderly and disabled you see on the streets here are. No, these people are not being thrown out on the curb. In fact, they live longer, healthier, and more productive lives because they’re getting a constant level of care that ensures small things get treated before they become big problems.
The health care system also makes it easier on their caregiving adult children, who have more time to look in on Mom and take her on outings because they aren’t working 60-hour weeks trying to hold onto a job that gives them insurance.
9. People won’t be responsible for their own health if they’re not being forced to pay for the consequences.
False. The philosophical basis of America’s privatized health care system might best be characterized as medical Calvinism. It’s fascinating to watch well-educated secularists who recoil at the Protestant obsession with personal virtue, prosperity as a cardinal sign of election by God, and total responsibility for one’s own salvation turn into fire-eyed, moralizing True Believers when it comes to the subject of Taking Responsibility For One’s Own Health.
They’ll insist that health, like salvation, is entirely in our own hands. If you just have the character and self-discipline to stick to an abstemious regime of careful diet, clean living, and frequent sweat offerings to the Great Treadmill God, you’ll never get sick. (Like all good theologies, there’s even an unspoken promise of immortality: f you do it really really right, they imply, you might even live forever.) The virtuous Elect can be discerned by their svelte figures and low cholesterol numbers. From here, it’s a short leap to the conviction that those who suffer from chronic conditions are victims of their own weaknesses, and simply getting what they deserve. Part of their punishment is being forced to pay for the expensive, heavily marketed pharmaceuticals needed to alleviate these avoidable illnesses. They can’t complain. It was their own damned fault; and it’s not our responsibility to pay for their sins. In fact, it’s recently been suggested that they be shunned, lest they lead the virtuous into sin.
Of course, this is bad theology whether you’re applying it to the state of one’s soul or one’s arteries. The fact is that bad genes, bad luck, and the ravages of age eventually take their toll on all of us — even the most careful of us. The economics of the Canadian system reflect this very different philosophy: it’s built on the belief that maintaining health is not an individual responsibility, but a collective one. Since none of us controls fate, the least we can do is be there for each other as our numbers come up.
This difference is expressed in a few different ways. First: Canadians tend to think of tending to one’s health as one of your duties as a citizen. You do what’s right because you don’t want to take up space in the system, or put that burden on your fellow taxpayers. Second, “taking care of yourself” has a slightly expanded definition here, which includes a greater emphasis on public health. Canadians are serious about not coming to work if you’re contagious, and seeing a doctor ASAP if you need to. Staying healthy includes not only diet and exercise; but also taking care to keep your germs to yourself, avoiding stress, and getting things treated while they’re still small and cheap to fix.
Third, there’s a somewhat larger awareness that stress leads to big-ticket illnesses — and a somewhat lower cultural tolerance for employers who put people in high-stress situations. Nobody wants to pick up the tab for their greed. And finally, there’s a generally greater acceptance on the part of both the elderly and their families that end-of-life heroics may be drawing resources away from people who might put them to better use. You can have them if you want them; but reasonable and compassionate people should be able to take the larger view.
The bottom line: When it comes to getting people to make healthy choices, appealing to their sense of the common good seems to work at least as well as Calvinist moralizing.
10. This all sounds great — but the taxes to cover it are just unaffordable. And besides, isn’t the system in bad financial shape?
False. On one hand, our annual Canadian tax bite runs about 10% higher than our U.S. taxes did. On the other, we’re not paying out the equivalent of two new car payments every month to keep the family insured here.
When you balance out the difference, we’re actually money ahead. When you factor in the greatly increased social stability that follows when everybody’s getting their necessary health care, the impact on our quality of life becomes even more significant.
And True — but only because this is a universal truth that we need to make our peace with. Yes, the provincial plans are always struggling. So is every single publicly-funded health care system in the world, including the VA and Medicare. There’s always tension between what the users of the system want, and what the taxpayers are willing to pay. The balance of power ebbs and flows between them; but no matter where it lies at any given moment, at least one of the pair is always going to be at least somewhat unhappy.
But, as many of us know all too well, there’s also constant tension between what patients want and what private insurers are willing to pay. At least when it’s in government hands, we can demand some accountability. And my experience in Canada has convinced me that this accountability is what makes all the difference between the two systems.
It is true that Canada’s system is not the same as the U.S. system. It’s designed to deliver a somewhat different product, to a population that has somewhat different expectations. But the end result is that the vast majority of Canadians get the vast majority of what they need the vast majority of the time. It’ll be a good day when Americans can hold their heads high and proudly make that same declaration.
A new group calling itself Healthy Americans Against Reforming Medicine (HAARM) has launched a website to promote its efforts to derail health care reform. Their message: Health care for everybody is just bad and wrong and the Obama administration's plan will lead to socialism.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Also part of the war supplemental bill, Congress is honoring the families of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice by ensuring that all children of those killed in the line of duty since 9/11 will be able to afford a college education. This “Fry Scholarship” is named after Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jon David Fry. He was killed in Iraq in 2006, leaving behind three children. While nothing can replace the loss of a parent, the very least we can do is make sure that these Gold Star children have the opportunity for a bright future available to them. And it’s important that we invest in the future of veterans’ health care as well. This week, the House of Representatives began this process by approving a landmark budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The proposed 2010 VA budget represents a 15 percent increase over 2009 levels. If passed, this budget would set the stage for the 21st Century VA that the President and Secretary Shinseki have promised. We also saw movement on IAVA’s top legislative priority for this year: advance appropriations. By funding the VA a year in advance, we can finally put an end to the late budgets that have crippled the VA’s growth and maximize existing VA funding to provide the greatest quality and quantity of care possible. This is the legacy we will leave for generations of veterans to come—no matter what President or party is in charge. More here.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
By Senator Bernie Sanders
Our current private health insurance system is the most costly, wasteful, complicated and bureaucratic in the world. Today, 46 million people have no health insurance. Even more are underinsured with high deductibles and co-payments. Close to 20,000 Americans die each year because they don't have regular access to a doctor.
The time is now for our nation to address the most profound moral and economic issue we face.
The time is now for our country to join the rest of the industrialized world and provide cost-effective, comprehensive quality health care to every man, woman and child in our country.
The time is now to take on the powerful special interests in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and pass a single-payer national health care program.
Send a message to Congress, sign the petition.
The scare ads and op-ed pieces featuring Canadians telling us American how terrible their government health-care systems have arrived - predictably.
There's another, factual view - by those of us Americans who've lived in Canada and used their system.
My wife and I did for years, and we've been incensed by the lies we've heard back here in the U.S. about Canada's supposedly broken system. It's not broken - and what's more, Canadians like and fiercely defend it.
Example: Our son was born at Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital. My wife got excellent care. The total bill for three days in a semi-private room? $21.
My friend Art Finley is a West Virginia native who lives in Vancouver.
"I'm 82, and in excellent health," he told me this week. "It costs me all of $57 a month for health care, and it's excellent. I'm so tired of all the lies and bullshit I hear about the system up here in the U.S. media." Finley, a well-known TV and radio host for years in San Francisco, adds,
"I now have 20/20 vision thanks to Canadian eye doctors. And I haven't had to wait for my surgeries, either."
A Canadian-born doctor wrote a hit piece for Wingnut Central (the Wall Street Journal op-ed page) this week David Gratzer claimed:
"Everyone in Canada is covered by a single payer -- the government. But Canadians wait for practically any procedure or diagnostic test or specialist consultation in the public system." Vancouverite Finley: "That's sheer b.s." I heard Gratzer say the same thing on Seattle radio station KIRO this week. Trouble is, it's nonsense. We were always seen promptly by our doctors in Montreal, many of whom spoke both French and English.
Today, we live within sight of the Canadian border in Washington state, and still spend lots of time in Canada. Five years ago, while we were on vacation in lovely Nova Scotia, the Canadian government released a long-awaited major report from a federal commission studying the Canadian single-payer system. We were listening to CBC Radio the day the big study came out.
The study's conclusion: While the system had flaws, none was so serious it couldn't be fixed.
Then the CBC opened the lines to callers across Canada.
Here it comes, I thought. The usual talk-show torrent of complaints and anger about the report's findings.I wish Americans could have heard this revealing show. For the next two hours, scores of Canadians called from across that vast country, from Newfoundland to British Columbia.
Not one said he or she would change the system. Every single one defended it vigorously.
The Greatest Canadian Ever - Further proof: Not long ago, the CBC asked Canadians to nominate and then vote for The Greatest Canadian in history. Thousands responded.
The winner? Not Wayne Gretzky, as I expected (although the hockey great DID make the Top 10). Not even Alexander Graham Bell, another finalist.
The greatest Canadian ever?
Tommy Douglas. Who? Tommy Douglas was a Canadian politician - and the father of Canadian universal health care.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Found a quote by Secretary Sebelius of Health and Human Services in an NPR article that I found really ironic:
Republicans argue that upward of 100 million Americans would opt out of private insurance in favor of a public plan if such a plan were available.
Guess the words "Give the people what they want!" no longer means anything to our politicians, especially when it rubs up against their lucrative partners in big Pharma, the AMA lobbyists, Insurance company lobbyists, etc.
They just don't get the idea that health care for families should not be held hostage to the bottom line on an insurance company's balance sheet. They have no grasp of the concept that a child or a parent with cancer is not just a number on an actuarial table. They only seem to know that not to treat a patient is cheaper than treating that patient; the intrinsic value of human life doesn't even enter into the equation. The only way to teach them is to convince the legislators that votes on this cannot be bought no matter how much campaign money or bribes are offered.
Oh, and just as an aside, for the last three years that I worked as an employee of a large company that offered insurance, my company was forced to change insurance companies each year. Why? Because renegotiating the yearly insurance rate changes were unsuccessful at producing rates that were considered reasonable, and there was always some other company willing to offer a teaser rate to get their business knowing that they would hit the company hard by year two. The powers that be talk about being able to keep the insurance one has if they like it, or to keep their doctors, but even if you work for the same company, that doesn't always happen. This is way more than just a portability problem. It's insanity!
Monday, June 15, 2009
When we read the insane comments on right-wing blogs or hear constant attacks on moderates, liberals, progressives or anything that Savage, Hannity, and Limbaugh don't like, we feel queasy. When this is followed by the pummeling the truth gets from Fox "News" "analysts", there is a sinking eery feeling than many of us get about the state of this country.
As many progressive have been saying since the last presidential election (if not further back), there is a need for reform: we must have the Fairness Doctrine back! There are repercussions if a network shows "too much" flesh during the Super Bowl half time show but no consequences for calling the President an "illegal American" because there is no birth certificate without any real facts to substantiate the claim.
People with nothing more than an effort to advance "their side", "their argument," "their selves" having sought out and in many cases found a public platform to express their ideas must be held accountable for the damage that they create. There is a public and societal need for these "commentators" (so many of them are not reporters) to be more responsible about the language they use and the propaganda they spread. Regularly Fairness and Accuracy in the Media documents the distortions and outright lies that these ego maniacs tell (this is not to be confused with the right-wing counter effort Accuracy in Media, which continues to push the right-wing lies).
Let us be honest. This all began with the reckless McCain/Palin campaign. Their attacks on the media, liberals, progressives, and anyone who disagreed with them have produced a climate into which we are in a fear-hatred spiral. Labeling so many "socialist" just because it was convenient has made a mess of what once was meaningful public discourse.
As Danny Schechter has observed:
"The mistake that many make is to confuse the trappings of symbolic power with the exercise of real power. Truth be told, real power is exercised mostly by unchecked private interests, lobbyists and our media. They have the power to obstruct policies, stir up controversies and orchestrate pressure to kill measures they don't like. They are a well-funded minority and work skillfully in the shadows and through highly paid PR practitioners."
These marketers for the right-wing also work quite effectively through Fox "News". It is the instrument of the most brazen and dangerous of them. Fox exists for that reason -- and not, as some seem to think, to keep the residents of trailer parks and the captive audiences in doctor's offices entertained. It is propaganda at all costs.
Rush Limbaugh recently commented that neither God or Obama have birth certificates. Last week he said that our President was destroying our country worse than Al Qaeda. We have Republican Senators and Congressmen calling the President "UnAmerican," publicly asking "whose side is he on?", calling him a Muslim. Sound familiar? This was the same attacks the McCain/Palin camp made.
The television and radio talk show quasi-leaders of the GOP make their daily statements that feed hatred, distrust, and give comfort to domestic terrorists! As insane as Fox News is, they are fed by supposed respected political leaders. These people are inciting hatred, they are inciting violence and murders, they are un-American. They are the ones who are attacking the American way of life. Fox, Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Gingrich, Heritage Foundation, Rand Institute, all of these people have to stop for the sake of what remains of civil discourse in this country.
And bringing back the Fairness Doctrine is the only way to do it.
We create the news, we report the news we've created, we tell you to decide in our favor.
Conspiracy theories aside, I suspect that fomenting discord, even to the point of violence, is in the Fox News manifesto of blatant bias, outrageous Orwellian newspeak and basic shit-stirring, all in an effort to distract their audience, one which I feel certain they laugh at and/or regard as lab mice, from their right to truthful, responsible information.
Using their demographic's genetic predisposition to trust authority, they disguise their agit-prop as old-fashioned Huntley-Brinkley newscasts, throw in some archetypal American-looking leggy women to echo the sentiments of the patriarchal anchormen/fathers and their aforementioned racist, xenophobic messages are disseminated widely and effortlessly.
It's The Cabinet of Caligari here, with the mesmerist (O'Reilly) sending out a mass suggestion to its suggestible somnambulist audience. And, by golly, so far several have indeed been given to violent responses prompted by thinly veiled cues:
"Daddy is angry at the baby killing monster. I want to make Daddy love me. I will kill the monster."
O'Reilly has much in common with the inspirational rhetoric and impassioned, arguably effective gesticulations of certain historical demagogues and despots, who find their métier when harnessing their unique gifts of persuasion. In Bill's case, he is the embodiment of the stern but loving father, the one who alternately kneels alongside you at bedtime and prays and takes a belt to you if you misbehave. If he were to have been a success publishing erotic literature loosely based on his own steamy adventures, he would have been the current version of the original Continental character, cooing and wooing an equally impressionable audience, eager for romantic escapades instead of blood-soaked fantasies of Christian-American hegemony. Instead, he is Bill O'Reilly: Culture Terrorist.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Via Vanity Fair
When the current crisis is over, the reputation of American-style capitalism will have taken a beating—not least because of the gap between what Washington practices and what it preaches. Disillusioned developing nations may well turn their backs on the free market, warns Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, posing new threats to global stability and U.S. security.
While there may be no winners in the current economic crisis, there are losers, and among the big losers is support for American-style capitalism. This has consequences we’ll be living with for a long time to come.
In truth, historians will mark the 20 years since 1989 as the short period of American triumphalism. With the collapse of great banks and financial houses, and the ensuing economic turmoil and chaotic attempts at rescue, that period is over. So, too, is the debate over “market fundamentalism,” the notion that unfettered markets, all by themselves, can ensure economic prosperity and growth. Today only the deluded would argue that markets are self-correcting or that we can rely on the self-interested behavior of market participants to guarantee that everything works honestly and properly.
The economic debate takes on particular potency in the developing world. Although we in the West tend to forget, 190 years ago one-third of the world’s gross domestic product was in China. But then, rather suddenly, colonial exploitation and unfair trade agreements, combined with a technological revolution in Europe and America, left the developing countries far behind, to the point where, by 1950, China’s economy constituted less than 5 percent of the world’s G.D.P. In the mid–19th century the United Kingdom and France actually waged a war to open China to global trade. This was the Second Opium War, so named because the West had little of value to sell to China other than drugs, which it had been dumping into Chinese markets, with the collateral effect of causing widespread addiction. It was an early attempt by the West to correct a balance-of-payments problem.
Colonialism left a mixed legacy in the developing world—but one clear result was the view among people there that they had been cruelly exploited. Among many emerging leaders, Marxist theory provided an interpretation of their experience; it suggested that exploitation was in fact the underpinning of the capitalist system. The political independence that came to scores of colonies after World War II did not put an end to economic colonialism. In some regions, such as Africa, the exploitation—the extraction of natural resources and the rape of the environment, all in return for a pittance—was obvious. Elsewhere it was more subtle. In many parts of the world, global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank came to be seen as instruments of post-colonial control. These institutions pushed market fundamentalism (“neoliberalism,” it was often called), a notion idealized by Americans as “free and unfettered markets.” They pressed for financial-sector deregulation, privatization, and trade liberalization.
Free-market ideology turned out to be an excuse for new forms of exploitation. “Privatization” meant that foreigners could buy mines and oil fields in developing countries at low prices. It meant they could reap large profits from monopolies and quasi-monopolies, such as in telecommunications. While capital flowed freely, labor did not—except in the case of the most talented individuals, who found good jobs in a global marketplace.
Many in the developing world still smart from the hectoring they received for so many years: they should adopt American institutions, follow our policies, engage in deregulation, open up their markets to American banks so they could learn “good” banking practices, and (not coincidentally) sell their firms and banks to Americans, especially at fire-sale prices during crises. Yes, Washington said, it will be painful, but in the end you will be better for it. America sent its Treasury secretaries (from both parties) around the planet to spread the word. In the eyes of many throughout the developing world, the revolving door, which allows American financial leaders to move seamlessly from Wall Street to Washington and back to Wall Street, gave them even more credibility; these men seemed to combine the power of money and the power of politics. American financial leaders were correct in believing that what was good for America or the world was good for financial markets, but they were incorrect in thinking the converse, that what was good for Wall Street was good for America and the world.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
via Mock Paper Scissors
Oh god. This twists both my heart and my stomach up into tight, hard knots.
The family of slain abortion provider George Tiller said Tuesday that his Wichita clinic will be “permanently closed,” effective immediately.
In a statement released by Tiller’s attorneys, his family said it is ceasing operation of Women’s Health Care Services Inc. and any involvement by family members in any other similar clinic.
“We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and father and know that women’s health care needs have been met because of his dedication and service,” the family said.
This is awful. Just awful. I feel quite literally ill and nauseous at the moment.
I can’t blame Dr. Tiller’s family. I don’t blame his family. I understand that they have risked, and lost, far more than enough. No one could have ever blamed Dr. Tiller if he had decided, after the years of harassment and threats on his life, to give up practicing at his clinic. And so we certainly can’t blame his family now for shutting the clinic doors, once those threats were actually carried out. And I also hear what Dr. Hern, who provides the same type of late abortions that Dr. Tiller did, is saying. Who would want to work there? We can talk about principle all day long, but when it comes down to it — a man was murdered because he worked there. How many of us would be willing to take is place? Exceedingly few.
more at the link
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
|Looking for Comity in the Muslim World|
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Republican Yiffing - By John Amato
Isn't it always the same. An anti-gay Republican zealot getting caught up in a bizarre and tragic sex act. Some things never change.
I never heard of Yiffing before, but I did see it discussed on an episode of CSI: Episode 406 Fur and Loathing
Anyway, I have nothing against two consenting adult Yiffers, but Howie Klein found a rather disturbing Republican Yiffing story.
Jane Orie is a far right extremist, an anti-choice fanatic and the Republican majority whip of the Pennsylvania state Senate. She represents a backward district north of Pittsburgh. And if you'd guess that she's obsessed with sex and is a virulent and hysterical homophobe you'd be correct.
Friday she fired one of her top aides, Alan David Berlin. The report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is almost funny if it weren't so tragically Republican. It starts off like typical GOP fare-- another Republican closet case solicits sex from a young boy (15 years old) online. But then it gets really strange.
In a series of instant messages and online chats, Alan David Berlin, 40, of Carlisle, discussed dressing up in animal costumes and engaging in various sex acts with the boy, the state attorney general's office said yesterday...read on
As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?
It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete.
It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh -- and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation.
Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.
So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company's body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with -- dare I say it -- joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.
But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know -- who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let's be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority.
If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we've allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?
Thus, as GM is "reorganized" by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made "Roger & Me," I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:
1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.
We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.
The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.
President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.
2. Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce -- and most of those who have been laid off -- employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.
3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades -- and we don't even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven't used it, is criminal. Let's hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now.
4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.
5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.
6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we're going to have automobiles, let's have kinder, gentler ones. We can be building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will take years to retool the factories -- that simply isn't true).
7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.
8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.
9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.
Well, that's a start. Please, please, please don't save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don't throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.
100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front -- and the back -- seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it's over. It's a new day and a new century. The President -- and the UAW -- must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.
Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.
So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.
Yours, Michael Moore
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