Friday, 12 October 2012

Thoughts on the 2012 U.S. vice-presidential debate.

  • U.S. sanctions on Iran are indeed “crippling” and “devastating” as Joe Biden says. They are literally starving people. How can this be something to brag about?
  • The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing of Osama bin Laden are mentioned by Biden. But he ignores mass-killing drone wars in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
  • The Mubarak regime in Egypt was supplied with diplomatic support and multi-billions in U.S. military aid for 30 years. Not just from the Obama administration.
  • Listening to a “debate” on slightly differing positions of posturing militarism is nauseating.
  • The gargantuan subsidy for the military-industrial complex is always preserved from any substantial cuts.
  • Amidst talk of Iran, the U.S. has enough nuclear missiles to destroy all life on earth numerous times over. Perhaps Iran would be more inclined to end its proliferation if it deactivated a few dozen.
  • American foreign policy: condemning human rights violations and declaring allegiance to Saudi Arabia in the same sentence. The sheer hypocrisy is self-evident.
  • Does America defend the values of “liberty and individual rights” by imposing a brutal, punitive police and surveillance state against anti-corporate dissidents and Occupy protests?
  • Paul Ryan’s justification of market-driven healthcare is the notion of “choice”. There is no choice for people unable to access treatment and medicine due to its cost.
  • Friday, 5 October 2012

    A universal single-payer healthcare system would reduce the United States government deficit by 40%.

    According to a study by the United States National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health: “The total cost of the intervention over 12 months was $238,388 and the cost of increasing the delivery of appropriate care was $192,912 for a total cost of $431,300. The savings from reduction in inappropriate testing were $148,568 and from avoiding treatment costs as a result of appropriate testing were $455,464 for a total savings of $604,032. On a yearly basis the net cost saving to the government is $191,733 per year (2003 $Can) equating to $3,687 per physician or $63,911 per facilitator, an estimated return on intervention investment and delivery of appropriate preventive care of 40%.”
    This is the conclusion of a study comparatively eliminating all of the financial bureaucracies of a healthcare system controlled by government-subsidized corporations, in which patients are individually divided and denied the medical treatment of practitioners according to their ability to pay or by the technicalities of their private insurance coverage.
    Total spending on Health and Human Services in the 2013 federal government budget is $940.9 billion. A 40% reduction achieved through the United States creating a universal healthcare system like the rest of the industrialized world would by the NLM’s estimation save $376.36 billion a year; around 41.8% of the entire government deficit at planned 2013 levels.

    Thursday, 4 October 2012

    Some thoughts on the first U.S. presidential debate.

    • Mitt Romney will help the families losing their homes. By supporting bank foreclosures of them?
    • It’s typical neoliberalism for Mitt to use the symptoms of wealth inequality to justify economic austerity.
    • Tax evasion costs the U.S. $400-500 billion a year. The same amount of money would be saved through adaption of a universal healthcare system according to the American Medical Association. 
    • The problems relating to abandoning Medicare for elderly people essentially exemplify the endemic inefficiency and immorality of for-profit healthcare for all.
    • The reality of the U.S. healthcare system is an infant mortality rate higher than in Cuba.
    • If Mitt believes in state-by-state healthcare, does he supports plans in Vermont for free universal coverage?
    • Mitt argues against a board of people in government deciding on access to healthcare treatments.  Don’t health insurance companies dictate on what treatments patients can and cannot have according to their “preexisting conditions”?
    • Romney will protect religious “freedom and tolerance” by supporting segregation and suppression of the rights of women and LGBT people.
    • How reassuring that Republicans and Democrats are united in extrajudicial drone strike assassinations.
    • Of course, spending on the absurd and gargantuan military budget is untouchable.  There is no austerity for Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing etc.

    Wednesday, 3 October 2012

    The inhuman crimes of Atos Origin and the Department of Work and Pensions

    It has been disclosed that over 11,000 disabled and chronically sick people in Britain have died after being declared 'fit to work' by the Department of Work and Pensions and Atos Origin, the company contracted to undertake "Work Capability Assessments" of their abilities. To put this into perspective, this is over 26 times the amount of UK military deaths in the war in Afghanistan.  

    These schemes are justified by the idea that disabled people should be forced into work by whatever means possible. In a twisted irony, Remploy, an organization providing means for disabled people willing and able to work in certain capacities, has had large amounts of its funding cut by the same government abusing the disabled community as workshy welfare dependents. Of course, most disabled and severely sick people are unable to work, and would not be given a job by any responsible employer. 55% of them, after having their vital welfare withdrawn by the government, are jobless and without any income. A breast cancer survivor, with clinical depression and muscle pain caused by her chemotherapy, considers that her life "isn't worth living" after the withdrawal of her Disability Living Allowance has left her impoverished and unable to provide for her children.

    These Atos "assessments" are claimed to be a reasonable basis on whether to deny or allow claimants of Disability Living Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Employment Support Allowance welfare payments. They have been roundly condemned by the British Medical Association, who view them as medically harmful to those subjected to them, and without any scientific medical basis. Atos are known to systematically drive their pseudoscientific "points" system on the ability of those subjected to their tests with extremely contrived and unaccountable flexibility. According to former Atos 'nurse' Joyce Drummond, she was demanded by the company to take advantage of as many methods as possible for claimants to fail the points test, and resigned in her refusal to do so. She was also discouraged for being "too nice" to the disabled and sick people supposedly in her care. Atos appear to prefer to subject the assessed to intimidation, humiliation and abuse. A person disabled by severe sciatica was forced to "crawl on the floor in tears" in agony, by a "doctor" who refused them any aid, and any points in their assessment, so therefore any disability welfare payments. Another with multiple sclerosis expressed concern over "becoming just another boring statistic in the mounting death toll.”

    It is subjective to consider how the 11,000 who died after having their benefit payments withdrawn may have joined this 'mounting death toll'. Some may have been effected enough by the consequences of deprivation and distress, and others will have killed themselves. Colin Traynor (aged 29), with severe epilepsy, died after a seizure assumed by his family to have been the result of his welfare payment being cut by £70 a week. Karen Sherlock (aged 44), with many illnesses caused by inherited diabetes and resulting in her needing to undergo regular dialysis, died of a cardiac arrest after being forced into a "Work Related Activity" under the threat of losing her entire Incapacity Benefit, the stress of which presumably overwhelmed and distracted her from recovery. In the 10,998 other cases, there will be a multitude of untold stories even sadder and more sickening than these.

    The routine excuse given by Atos on such cases is that they "do not make decisions on people's benefit entitlement or on welfare policy". Though this seems to have contrived in the spirit of Adolf Eichmann's statements as the Nuremberg Trials, it is nevertheless true that the Department of Work and Pensions under Ian Duncan Smith is the main source of responsibility for them. Atos are in their conduct, afterall, only following orders.

    I believe that the institutionally-driven violence against disabled people, and the sentiments justifying it in the tabloid newspapers that are just as racist and chauvinistic as they are disablist, can be described as fascist without reservation. This is beyond hyperbole or Godwin's Law. It is an accurate way of defining the scapegoating and cold cruelty inflicted against vulnerable people, whose existences are viewed as futile and warranting of ritual derision. This is evident in the explosion of disability hate crimes which appear to be relative to government policy and enthusiastic mass media agitation against the "benefit scrounging" disabled community.  

    Article 25.1 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundation of international standards for basic civil and human rights which any supposedly morally decent society is obliged to adhere, reads the following: 

    "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his [or her] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his [or her] control."

    There is no doubt in my mind that the way in which the United Kingdom government's welfare policies treat disabled and incapacitated people violates international United Nations standards of basic human rights.

    PCS union leader Mark Serwotka argues that "A society that refuses to support its most vulnerable has lost the right to be called civilised". I would agree, and say that a Britain complacent to the systematic manslaughter of those vulnerable people has ceded that right completely. Though this will hopefully be regarded infamously in history, and eventually atoned for as it should be, it makes no difference to the hardest hit, suffering and dying at this very moment. Their situation warrants any feasible action by those they need to defend them.

    Monday, 1 October 2012

    The consent manufacturing of the Commission on Presidential Debates

    On 3 October in the United States, the first of three presidential debates between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney will take place. There is arguably definite differences between the two candidates; it would be naive to claim them as indistinguishable. But nevertheless, they are mutually inclined to certain tendencies: such as warmongering on Iran and support for the Israeli government's violations of international human rights law, the failed and damaging 'War on Drugs', authoritarian laws eroding basic civil liberties such as the NDAA and SOPA, the CIA's mass-killing drone strikes in the Middle East, and general pandering to the interests of multinational corporations and financial institutions. Romney is undoubtedly a mendacious neoliberal kleptocrat in his own regard, but one of Obama's largest financial contributors is Lloyd Blankfein: the CEO and Chairman and chairman Goldman of Sachs, and a former economic adviser to George W. Bush. So though Obama and Romney will dispute their differences and attempt to have invented one-liners catch on in the public consciousness, they will be in the highly stage-managed confines of rhetorical monopoly, with no challenge to the opinions they mutually share, which will likely be dismissed and unaddressed entirely.  This is quite an explicit representation of the manufacture of political consent: by a two-headed one party state allowed to express their servile policies by corporate media control in the U.S., which Noam Chomsky has always described.

    The Commission on Presidential Debates who coordinate them decide to obey to this pathetic whitewashing entirely. But there is no reason for them to: only their own pre-set guidelines of candidate inclusion which, perversely, make the opportunity for the candidates who are not the Democrat and Republican to participate an impossibility, due to their deliberate and systemic unacknowledgment by the very same media. I have emailed the media representatives of the Commission:

    I am contacting you to join many others in expressing my dissatisfaction and disappointment with the Commission of Presidential Debates' exclusion of the Libertarian Party candidate Gov. Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein from October's presidential debates (as well as that of of their respective running mates Judge Jim Gray and Cheri Honkala from the vice-presidential debates). The candidates are being excluded despite their eligibility and hypothetical mathematical possibility to win the election. The Commission should at least consider the inclusion of Gov. Johnson, given the fact he has major ballot access and has polling numbers on par with that of H. Ross Perot, who was allowed to debate with then President Bush and Gov. Bill Clinton in the 1992 election campaign.

    The Commission claims itself to be non-profit organization without bias and in informative journalistic service. If so, then it should not limit the prism and openness of the national debate in evident partiality to the two main parties. Such exclusion, in my view, is in totally lax abandon of journalistic integrity and democratic legitimacy. The media in any free society should challenge power; not adhere to its dictated wishes. A number of your sponsors who have withdrawn their financial support of your activities appear to have the same view. I suggest their sentiments are heeded in accordance to the freedom of speech the American people deserve. How can it be justified to exclude such candidates based upon an arbitrary set of standards they are implicitly impeded from achieving by such inbuilt censorship of their views to a national audience? 

    Whether or not we personally agree with candidates like Gary Johnson or Jill Stein to whatever extent is irrelevant. I encourage anyone, anywhere in the world, who cares about freedom of expression, do to the same accordingly. The emphasis of and by many people on the narrow prism of the debates may at least convince them to modify their lack of openness.