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.

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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.

The bailout wake-up to real world capitalism

The post I wrote yesterday about Eric Hobsbawm’s article was picked-up by Tobin Harshaw writing in the New York Times Opinionator Blog which looks at the interesting issue of what socialism really is and what it means to Americans.

Harshaw quotes a Rasmussen poll that found only 53% of Americans feel that capitalism is better than socialism. This result and the results of an earlier poll perhaps indicate that more and more Americans are starting to question whether they really live in a capitalist society. The earlier poll found that 70% of Americans would prefer a “free-market economy” to “capitalism” indicating that Americans feel that the system they’re living in is not as “free” as it’s made out to be.

As the Rasmussen poll notes:

The fact that a “free-market economy” attracts substantially more support than “capitalism” may suggest some skepticism about whether capitalism in the United States today relies on free markets. Other survey data supports that notion. Rather than seeing large corporations as committed to free markets, two-out-of-three Americans believe that big government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors.

Although the telephone poll is hardly representative of the whole country, it should be no surprise that many Americans feel this way. As far back as 1996, Noam Chomsky made a speech on this subject at Harvard University on what he calls “really existing free market theory”. Chomsky points-out that time after time, the public are made to pay for the financial troubles and misadventures of corporations:

So, if Third World debt gets out of control, you socialize it. It’s not the problem of the banks that made the money. When the S&Ls collapse, you know, same thing. The public bails them out. When American investment firms get into trouble because the Mexican bubble bursts, you bail out Goldman Sachs. And — the latest Mexico bail out, and on and on. I mean, there’s case after case of this.

Of course, the latest round of high profile bailout packages passed by the Bush and Obama administrations have brought this fact into the American consciousness more than ever. If this makes them question the authenticity of real-world capitalism, then it may be at least one silver lining in the economic crisis.

Behind every great man…

Carol Chomsky

Carol Chomsky

The sad news that Noam Chomsky’s wife, Carol Chomsky, has died today from cancer.

Carol Chomsky; at 78; Harvard language professor was wife of MIT linguist – The Boston Globe.