Liberals rejoice at health care injustice

Good liberals across America are supposed to be dancing in the street today because President Obama has managed to pass a watered down bill that doesn’t deliver the public health-care system that the majority of the American public have wanted for so long. That is what’s called a “victory” in liberal America today.

Of course the bill is a small step in the right direction but that’s the kindest thing that can be said about it. The passing of such a bill appeases liberals everywhere that however flawed the system is, it is still basically democratic which is the most dangerous result of this whole long drawn-out charade. The fact that they even contemplate this is true is indicative of how indoctrinated they are by the liberal media and political establishment when the facts are considered.

The good points can be summarized as:

1) Around 32 million more poor Americans will finally have some measure of medical insurance.

2) Medical insurers won’t be able to turn away people with prior illnesses or medical problems.

However, this isn’t exactly much reason to celebrate when:

1) The American public wanted a universal  health care system a long time before Obama came along and the fact that it was even under consideration was an opportunity that has gone begging. It wasn’t even considered an issue by the mainstream media and political elite then and now that this bill has been passed, the chances of ever realizing one are even more remote. Now that the masses have been pacified, the liberal elite can return to ignoring health care as a serious issue.

2) The bill will not change the fact that the American system is twice as expensive as health care systems in the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia and yet offers the poorest service to its customers.

3) It does nothing to stop the fact that health care premiums will continue to rise. Unbelievably, medical care providers are already rubbing their hands at this just hours after the bill was passed. The new bill actually prevents the government from negotiating pharmaceutical prices with big pharmaceuticals and prevents it from importing medicines. Health care in America thus remains in the hands of private tyrannies which is the system’s biggest single problem.

Most polls show that the public wanted a public option which would have counteracted these problems. For example, a recent poll by CBS showed that almost 60% of Americans want a public health care system like every other civilized Western nation. And since a public system already exists for those over 65 in the USA, is it really that complicated to extend it to the rest of the population?

Of course it isn’t. It’s simply a question of political will and that will has been entirely hijacked by the corporate community in America. The new health care bill hasn’t proved that Obama has suddenly turned over a new progressive leaf for America. Rather what it has proved is that public opinion is woefully constrained by what the corporate community and mainstream media want in the USA.

The key for the American public is now to push even harder for a universal health care system and make it clear that the new bill doesn’t even go half as far enough. They certainly won’t be able to rely on Obama and the Democrats to do it for them.


An Orwellian end to the decade

It seems wholly appropriate that a decade that has been punctuated by death and destruction, from the nightmare events of 9-11 to the illegal invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, should end with a man winning the world’s most prestigious peace prize for waging war. In a world of Orwellian political discourse such as The “War On Terror”, “A War for Freedom and Democracy” in Iraq and a “Moral War” or “War of Necessity” in Afghanistan, a picture of a man being lauded by intellectual elites for recently sending another 30,000 troops into an already impoverished country seems very fitting.

Not that this is anything new of course. Powerful interests have to cloak acts of aggression with pretty words otherwise the public they rule over wouldn’t let them get away with it quite so easily. It’s just that the whole thing with Barack Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize – when there are millions of charities and aid workers out there working for genuine peace – has reached rather bizarre extremes. Even the authors of the Wikipedia entry on Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have been a bit naughty and said that Obama “doesn’t deserve it” (scroll to the bottom of the page).

And it’s no secret that Obama will soon be “bringing peace” to Iran with missiles and bombs which is what this peace prize is really all about. The main reason Obama has been awarded the peace prize is apparently because of his rehtorical “commitment” to reducing nuclear weapons. Words are cheap though and any rational person judges someone on their actions and not their words.

Unfortunately, Obama’s actions on nucelar proliferation don’t paint a pretty picture. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently passed a resolution calling on Israel to join a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.) and open its nuclear facilities to inspection. The USA, along with Europe, tried to block it (to the general silence of the media) although unfortunately for them it passed anyway. But while it’s OK for Israel to be armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, Obama has made it quite clear that it’s not OK for Iran to do so.

Even more tellingly, the day before Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize, the Pentagon announced it was accelerating delivery of the most lethal non-nuclear weapons in the arsenal: 13-ton bombs for B-2 and B-52 stealth bombers, designed to destroy deeply hidden bunkers shielded by 10,000 pounds of reinforced concrete. Ideal for attacking a well protected country like Iran unlike a feeble one such as Iraq or Afghanistan.

It would be nice to think that those naive Scandinavians have awarded Obama the Peace Prize to “encourage” him towards real actions towards peace. To give them the benefit of the doubt, they did award it to him in a moment of madness after getting a little over excited about his election just a few days after he took office. However, as they very well know, it has been interpreted as a ringing endorsement of what Obama is doing now. The unfortunate effect is that it looks like the European intellectual elite’s way of giving Obama a green light to go steaming into Iran when the US administration feels the time is right.

As the decade ends, Orwell’s 1984 depiction of a world where “War is Peace” has been given new meaning by this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ron Paul, Alex Jones and the politics of selfishness

screen-captureTwo of the more outspoken critics of the American government and corporate America are Texan Alex Jones and fellow Texan, Republican Congressman Ron Paul that he frequently endorses. Both have gathered quite a small but dedicated following on the internet for their anti-establishment stances. The reasons are understandable. Jones is a bombastic Texan who offers sensational explanations for America’s problems usually revolving around conspiracy theories that involve secret societies and government run population control experiments. Paul meantime maintains that 9-11 was an “inside job” which endears him to the disillusioned and pissed-off youth of America and beyond.

Jones campaigns that American society is heading towards a fascist nightmare and being plunged into a “New World Order” but the solutions his hero Paul advocates would in reality be even more right-wing, extreme and cynical than anything that exists today. The main tenet of Paul’s philosophy is removal of all government in favor of pure free market forces. This idea is sometimes known as libertarianism and is enshrined by organisations such as The Campaign for Liberty. Paul believes that all of America’s economic problems would be solved naturally if market forces were allowed to run unhindered by government. This was illustrated in a recent interview on CNN’s Larry King Live when Paul went head-to-head with Michael Moore. Paul said the solution to the ailing health-care system is to allow the free market to sort it out and for the government to get out of the way.

Paul is also popular for his anti-war stance and demanding a full withdrawal from American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. His political philosophy is that America should stay completely out of other country’s affairs including withdrawal of American military bases around the world. This sounds all very well but does this mean that he would also withdraw the country from those organizations like the UN that – however currently flawed – are committed to maintaining peace in the world? If so, what he is advocating for America is an “I’m alright Jack” policy that turns it’s back on the rest of the world.

Paul’s solution is that the world is run by private tyrannies accountable to no-one but themselves which would be a dream for corporate America. He’s saying that hundreds of years of popular struggle to secure working rights, civil rights and some modicum of democracy should be thrown out of the window. If he is really advocating this, then they he is as bad, if not worse, than the current system he so tirelessly criticizes.

Either, people like Jones and Paul have little concern for the future of the vast majority of the population or they simply haven’t thought through their positions enough.

Beware of the Obama seduction

obama20smile4Last night I watched a revealing 2 hour special by NBC about life inside the White House. The team were allowed access all areas (more or less) and what’s initially striking is just how relaxed and youthful the White House is under Obama’s administration.

Most of all though – and I got the same impression reading Barack Obama’s autobiographies – was how earnest he and his team seem to be in improving the lives of Americans. Obama in particular is incredibly personable, friendly and intelligent and you can’t help but get drawn-in that he really is “change”.

After watching the program however, I had to take a step back and ignore the smile, the charisma and the openness for a second and pinch myself. Surely this is all too good to be true?

I always find Noam Chomsky a good antidote for this kind of thing and as he points out in the speech below, people need to take more note of the substance of Obama’s appointments and policies and less note of his laid-back charisma and style. In particular, he points out a few people that feature very prominently in the NBC film that clearly do not embody Obama’s election campaign promise of “change we can believe in”:

  • Joe Biden Obama’s 66 year old choice as vice-president and long term Washington insider. A strong supporter of Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
  • Rahm Emanuele Obama’s Chief of Staff. Probably the most powerful member of his team as he decides on the President’s policy agenda. Another long term Washington insider, he’s a former investment banker and was one of the largest recipients of money from investment institutions and hedge funds during his time in the House of Representatives. Also thoroughly supported the war on Iraq. In 2003, he spoke at a pro-Israel rally in Chicago and said Israel was ready for peace but would not get there until Palestinians “turn away from the path of terror”.
  • Larry Summers Obama’s bizarre choice to solve the financial crisis. A move once described as “Like putting Osama Bin Laden in charge of the war on terror.” The reason being Summers is a former World Bank employee with a record of leaving developing economies in ruins. Most importantly, he did a similar job in the Clinton administration where he oversaw much of the neo-liberal policies and financial regulation dismantling that’s actually responsible for the financial crisis in the first place. Summers also once described Africa as being “under polluted” and women as being “genetically handicapped” when it comes to maths. As The Exiled points out: “Summers’s track record, in which he oversaw the destruction of entire economies and covered up cronyism and corruption, his Africa memo and sexist declarations aren’t exceptions but rather part of a disturbing pattern.”

In some ways, I think it was better to have someone so much easier to see-through like George Bush as President than someone as silky smooth as Obama.

The start of the NBC film can be seen here:

The “war of necessity” over a pipeline

TAPI Pipeline route

TAPI Pipeline route

8 years and 64,000 troops from 41 countries later, the Taliban are still going strong in Afghanistan. Just this evening, a car bomb has killed 40 in Kandahar adding to the rapidly growing death toll of  Western soldiers and Afghanis dying in this needless conflict. The Guardian reports that this year, 295 troops have now been killed already this year compared to 294 in the whole of 2008. As is common with the Western media, no mention is made of how many Afghanis may have been killed. Obama is calling it a “war of necessity” and it’s clear that his credo of “change we can believe in” stops squarely when it comes to Afghanistan. He is still espousing the tired justification that those who attacked the USA on 9-11 were trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan and are planning to do so again. In reality, this “war of necessity” is nothing but a war for control of an oil pipeline.

Afghanistan has always been a huge strategic geo-political prize because of it’s proximity to energy producing states in the Gulf and Central Asia. The stakes have been risen even more however by the construction of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline known as TAPI due to open in 2014. The pipeline will pass through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Even the BBC theorized as far back as 2001 that the pipeline was the motivating factor behind the invasion. It suggested:

  • Given the increasing importance of finding and exploiting new sources of fossil fuel, governments like those of the US and the UK are enormously keen to gain influence in the Central Asian region in order to secure those supplies for the West
  • In order to achieve that, and get those energy supplies moving out of Central Asia, they need to set up a pro-western government in Afghanistan.

In typically liberal style however, the BBC concludes that you’re probably insane for believing these theories by stating:

But the argument that these are the main motivations behind US actions, not the desire to stamp out international terrorism, will probably find support mainly among those who already have a fondness for conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile Noam Chomsky’s theory is that the pipeline will remove regional dependence on Iran for oil and thus isolate the country even further – suiting US political motives in the region.

The Americans have coveted the pipeline for quite some time now. US interest in the pipeline stretches back to 1998 when, as Patrick Martin writes:

The Afghanistan pipeline route was pushed by the US-based Unocal oil company, which engaged in intensive negotiations with the Taliban regime. These talks, however, ended in disarray in 1998, as US relations with Afghanistan were inflamed by the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, for which Osama bin Laden was held responsible. In August 1998, the Clinton administration launched cruise missile attacks on alleged bin Laden training camps in eastern Afghanistan. The US government demanded that the Taliban hand over bin Laden and imposed economic sanctions. The pipeline talks languished.

It’s quite possible that Unicol and the Bush administration saw 9-11 as the perfect opportunity to “settle” this languishing of talks once and for all by simply invading the country. As Michael Hart and Antoni Negri state in their book Empire, “All empires go to war over natural resources”. That’s why its Afghanistan and not New Zealand that’s been pounded with bombs for the last 8 years.

Why Obama can’t implement universal healthcare

I am not implying that politicians are corrupt (although some are). I am willing to admit that most are honorable persons. But the need to constantly raise funds for their campaigns (for election and reelection) corrupts the democratic process. And the unwillingness of most members of Congress to change this situation makes them accomplices in that corruption. Such practices are illegal in most democratic countries. Many ministers of European governments have had to resign when it came to light that they had received private funds for the electoral process.

An excellent article here by Professor Vicenç Navarro pointing out exactly why Obama, even if he wanted to, could not launch a universal healthcare system in the USA.

Bush’s parting gift for Obama (and Iraq’s for him)

Seems like George Bush is getting into the swing of things early this Christmas by leaving Obama a few farewell gifts in the US, while receiving one of his own in Iraq.

Bush is currently rushing through last minute legislation using a special “midnight regulations” law which allows laws to be passed into law immediately without consulting Congress. The bigger question here is why such a dubious concept as “midnight regulations” even exists in a democracy. It seems to be solely designed to allow outgoing Presidents to enact legislation that will take the incoming one years to undo. According to The Guardian, the law’s rushed through will:

  • Make it easier for coal companies to dump waste from strip-mining into valleys and streams.
  • Ease the building of coal-fired power stations nearer to national parks.
  • Allow people to carry loaded and concealed weapons in national parks.
  • Open up millions of acres to mining for oil shale.
  • Allow healthcare workers to opt out of giving treatment for religious or moral reasons, thus weakening abortion rights.
  • Hurt road safety by allowing truck drivers to stay at the wheel for 11 consecutive hours.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi also gave Bush an early Christmas present during his farewell tour of Iraq. During a press conference, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at him. Bush’s response?

That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me you may want to know…These journalists here were very apologetic. They were, you know, they said this doesn’t represent the Iraqi people, but that’s what happens in free societies where people try to draw attention to themselves.

Those Iraqis that see their daily lives as living under the boot of an American occupation will no doubt regard it as the most appropriate of Christmas gifts for President Bush.