Letters from our readers

21 July 2009

On “A rising tide of social misery

Thank you for the corrective to all the happy talk we are seeing in media. The pressure is truly growing—how things have not already exploded is beyond me. 44,000 losing their health care per week? What kind of society is this? A rhetorical question, as your site constantly parses it, uncovers the lies that sustain the current horrible conditions.

Rob M
16 July 2009

On “Obama’s neocolonial mission in Africa

Ann Talbot wrote an insightful piece. Obama’s statements in Ghana to Africa’s political elites reminds me of a point Antonio Gramsci made in his essay “The Different Position of Urban and Rural Type Intellectuals.” Gramsci stated, “one further phenomenon in the United States is worth studying, and that is the formation of a surprising number of negro intellectuals who absorb American culture and technology. It is worth bearing in mind the indirect influence that these negro intellectuals could exercise on the backward masses in Africa, and indeed direct influence—American expansionism should use American negroes as its agents in the conquest of the African market and the extension of American civilisation.” It is clear that Obama has learned his role as the “new face” for United States imperialism extremely well. (He also seems to relish it as well.) The question is: How soon will it be before the insurmountable contradictions of capitalism expose to Obama’s liberal followers that they have been led up a blind alley by him?

GW
California, USA
16 July 2009

On “Somali-Americans subjected to first Obama ‘terror’ prosecution

What is “terror” or “terrorism”? Is it planting a bomb in a bus or dropping numerous bombs from about a 100 feet altitude? Is it a suicide bombing or firing shells and missiles from well armoured tanks? Is it occupying a territory or defending it?

Prabhakar
India
16 July 2009

***

This is just a smooth, seamless continuation of the egregious policies of Bush administration, something that socialists, and the more perceptive members of the public have warned about ever since the Obama nomination as the Democratic frontrunner. Here, however, is a not-so-subtle change: the emphasis is on “home-grown terrorism,” with the obvious aim to sow fear and suspicion amongst the American public, opening the way for more aggressive measures for population control and “enhancing” the Security State. Apart from that, of course, it is a perfect diversion from the rampant recession and the privations that the ordinary Americans are subject to on a daily basis, whilst the financial elite is rolling in bonuses and “compensations.”

Mirek
Australia
17 July 2009

On “It’s all right to be resigned to your fate: Sam Mendes’s Revolutionary Road

I'd like to commend Sandy English on a perceptive and well-written article regarding Revolutionary Road. However, I'd like to take issue with English's point regarding Mendes' apparent acceptance of the upper-middle class American lifestyle that English suggests ends the film. English writes:

“In the last shot, Frank Wheeler watches his children play. He and April have fobbed them off on neighbors or taken them for granted in most of the film. His face seems drawn, but also stronger and more mature. There is a note of tenderness and hope. Hope is an attractive quality, but it needs to be based on something.

“What does the movie’s ending indicate? Perhaps that while escape from an unendurable life is not possible, knuckling under and living with what you are offered is. A healthier paycheck and praise from the boss are something, after all.”

I'd like to remind English that the last shot is not, in fact, of Frank; it’s of that annoying real estate agent’s husband. The two are now in old age. The husband reminds his wife, after she says the new tenants of the house on Revolutionary Road are her favorite, that the Wheelers should be given that honor. But instead she goes on about how the Wheeler's were a bit “whimsical,” how they let the house depreciate in value—in other words, how they seemed to put up a bit too much of a challenge to the conventional way of suburban life in the 1950s. That last shot of her husband’s face, looking at his wife speak as the soundtrack slowly fades her voice away, struck me, as a 26-year-old man, as extraordinarily cautionary. I felt Mendes was saying that while Frank Wheeler may be resigned to his life, if the rest of us do we will end up at life’s end regretting it, only at that point, not being able to do much about it.  

I think Mendes has certain problems as an artist, with American Beauty and Road to Perdition being terribly poor films, albeit with obvious elements of disgust for contemporary middle-class life as society has dictated it. He has grown a little with Revolutionary Road. If he digs deeper I think he can be a valuable asset to Hollywood.

Regards,

Adam C
New York, USA
15 July 2009

On “US health care legislation to leave millions uninsured, ration care

Basically they are not analyzing the problem and are operating on some health care myths.

1. Obama says doctors are operating in good faith. There is a trend to the corporatization of private practice. And some of these corporations are vertically integrated (just like the oil companies) from primary care to specialist care. There is an interest in upwards referral. In a recent interview on CBS Obama cited angioplasty, where it is found that 30 percent are unnecessary. This is a high-cost, well-reimbursed procedure that makes the covered patient a profit center. And these corporate practices have computerized programs to maximize profits.  For instance, one with which I am familiar has no set fee for a service but charges based on what the provider will allow, so the reimbursement is always maximized as well as the copay by the patient.

2. In ignoring single payer programs, they fail to take into account all of the ways in which individuals and businesses are charged for medical coverage in the existing system. Every liability and home owners policy has a medical reimbursement factor. So does every auto policy.  Reimbursement of unpaid hospital bills is paid through increased insurance premiums and taxes both to business and individuals. Look closely and you find will many other ways these medical costs are present. Workman’s comp has both a disability and a treatment option. Proposing subsidies for people who cannot afford insurance provides subsidies for the insurers profits, subsidies for the insurer’s administrative expense (often abused or inflated to hide profits) as well as for treatment. All of these different systems involve complex administrative and legal procedures, adding to the cost of health care, much of it unnecessary and arbitrary.

Single payer would could eliminate much of this and on the face of it seem to drastically reduce the cost to business and the individual while providing coverage to all for all contingencies.

3. There is no provision for the government to negotiate with the big pharmaceutical companies.  The Congress and the White House have taken to announcing reductions in cost or payment of the reform based on unenforceable promises from the health industry. They’ve made such promises in the past and failed to meet their obligations. If you budget on the basis of an unenforceable promise probably made in bad faith, you are going to make a bad situation worse.

4. They are not addressing the problem of fraud in the system. When an HMO can settle for hundreds of million in refunds for abusing Medicare/Medicaid and no one goes to jail, something is wrong, and there is nothing to give any other executive a fear of penalty.  

There are many other problems with the system that are not being analyzed. Many of the solutions being pulled out as new ideas are old ideas tested in the market place, shown to be prone to abuse and ineffectual.

All Obama seems to want is a “smiley face” on his report card for putting through “reform.” He doesn't seem to much care what it is or what it does.

Bob R
Florida, USA
17 July 2009