Subject: ON WORKING FOR (SOMEONE'S) PROFITS.
4 March 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
I recently began a Grenoble lecture on early American history to first-year students by announcing that the information I was about to give them would not be on next week’s exam, but that nevertheless I thought this information was very important for a deep understanding of the formation of American political culture. I then proceeded to speak for several minutes about the popular movements in England during the Puritan Revolution (1642-1649), and about different communities which emerged at this time, many of them --like the Levelers, the Diggers, and the Ranters-- using the new King James Version of the Holy Bible to justify their alternative life styles. Suddenly thousands of English peasants could hear Jesus's words in English, and he was saying such things as: "It is harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camal to go through the eye of a needle." This was a 17th-century communication revolution, listening to Jesus speak in English. One student left the lecture hall when I announced this information would not be on the exam. To the remaining students, I concluded my presentation by pointing out how these early experiences in Engish society during the colonial period gave birth to ideas that influenced later Anglo-Saxon traditions and early institutions in the United States, as well, such as the “Bill of Rights,” and particularly the First Amendment.
Drawing on their new knowledge from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, many ordinary people living in the English countryside during the 1640s came to believe that Jesus thought leveling society so that material wealth was equally available to all was not a bad idea; other communities, like the Diggers, formed around the belief that a return to innocence was possible –as naked and unashamed as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, before carnal knowledge intruded into their lives; the Ranters subscribed to the belief that unrestricted speech could guarantee that divine inspiration would never be censored. The Puritans tolerated these communities so long as they could receive benefits by breaking the ties between the traditional aristocracy and their peasantry. King Charles I was executed on January 30, 1649, and the English Republican Commonwealth, under the authoritarian rule of Oliver Cromwell, and later his son Richard, put an end to this"nonsense." This repressive regime re-established its own form of "law-and-order," which lasted for eleven miserable years, before the Restoration of King Charles II, in May 1660.
Learning to speak English correctly requires a knowledge of Anglo-Saxon history, otherwise the language becomes strictly instrumental, an artificial language, anchored to injunctions and a positivist compliance to the status quo. My own research on the “Ideologies of History and the History of Ideologies” in American society has taken me deep into the history of science. (For more information, see CEIMSA Archives for Bulletins such as #'s 373, 404, 482, 493, 495, 517, and 518; and my article on “Learning and Learning to Learn in a Democratic Matrix.”) In the third volume of his four-volume study, Science in History, J.D. Bernal writes of science and medicine, and the murderous obstacles created by 20th-century capitalists to block the creation of any system of National Health Service.
If one infant in fifty dies in Sweden, why should one in six die in India? It is now plainly evident [this book was published in 1960] that for lack of food or medical care two-thirds of the people of the world are dying avoidable death, and that out of ten infants that now die nine could be saved. To know that and to do nothing about it is complicity in murder only less direct that acquiescing in killing them by atomic bombs or napalm.
This knowledge has, however, not been without effect. In the last fifty years, all over the world, except in the citadels of individualism where health like everything else, is for sale, has come an effective demand for free health service as a right. Even in Britain the medical profession has loyally, if unwillingly, acquiesced in a National Health Service. . . .
Social medicine logically implies social production and social distribution; how otherwise could everyone be guaranteed to work, rest, and food that are good for them? In brief, it implies socialism, and that is why in America particularly it is so fiercely resented, striking as it does at the sanctions of want and misery that lazy and greedy people think are the only means of setting the idle poor to work.
By contrast, wherever popular forces have triumphed there has been an instant drive for improved health services, especially for the children. By raising the status of doctors and nurses, by removing the need to compete for the few fee-paying patients, the old rooted objections of the medical profession to an increase of its members has been overcome. For instance, in the territory which is now known as Uzbekistan in tsarist times there was one doctor for every 31,000 of the population; in 1960 there was one for every 750, and Azerbaidzhan had one to every 450. These figures may be compared with Britain, where there is one for every 860, and Nigeria, where in 1960 there was one for every 33,000.
Even more spectacular has been the advances in China. There the drive for health has taken a mass popular form. The first stage has been the wiping out of sources of infection. China was one of the most fly-ridden countries in the world; after two years of popular government hardly a fly can be found in any Chinese town or village. The endemic centers of plague have been cleaned up, and over four hundred million people vaccinated against smallpox. The medial services have been greatly increased. In north-east China, for example, by June, 1952, there was twenty times as many hospitals in factories and mines and twelve times as many health clinics as compared with pre-liberation days. A doctor is not available there for every 625 workers. Factories have been built to produce new life-saving drugs, defeating the cruel intention of the American ban on their importation.
A similar transformation could be achieved in all the unhealthy tropical and sub-tropical areas, unhealthy only because poor and exploited. It can be done by the people themselves, and only by them. Medical help form outside, however well intentioned, can only be palliative, and sometimes not even that, when in the absence of land reform, it only leads to general impoverishment. In the Bengal malaria epidemic of 1944 the free issue of drugs found its way rapidly into the black market, the recipients preferring the risk of death from disease to the certainty of if from starvation.
In the last fifty years the science of biology and the practice of social medicine have proved that man is already capable of lifting the burden of disease and death that has weighed him down for millennia. Now that hat is known, nothing, not even the greatest development of hydrogen bombs and super poisons, is going to prevent the mass of humanity form finding a full and healthy life. (pp. 979-981)
Historical perspectives of scientific developments, such the one above, help us to understand why we should not give up the struggle; the forces of continuity with the past are too great to abandon the demand that future scienctific technology be implimented to liberate humankind from the slave ship environment to which it has been confined ; the next step is to appropriate political power out of the hands of greedy oligarchies, who are constantly pursuing their social class interests to the detriment of most of us by promoting war and artificial scarcity, and placing power into the hands of democratic groups aiming to apply 21st-century science and technology for the liberation of creative energies on behalf of public well-being.
In the 7 items below CEIMSA readers are invited to study the effects of the Unplanned Economy at this moment in history and to imagine cultural and social alternatives to the temporary realities of today.
Item A. is a report by Michael Parenti giving ture stories about “Free Market” Health Care in the USA.
Item B. is an essay from former U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney: “Look at What President Obama's Allies Do in Libya.”
Item C., from Council for the National Interest Foundation, is an exclusive interview with former U.S. Senator James Abourezk on the FBI exposure of a plot to murder him while he was in office.
Item D., from George Kenney of Electric Politics, is an audio interview with Dr. Dan McKanan on “Religion and the American Radical Tradition”.
Item F. is a video broadcast of Noam Chomsky February 27 talk at the University of Airzona on : Education For Whom and For What?
Item G., from Truth Out, is a report on the March First actions of Occupy Activists in 70 US cities.
And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers this short production on the work of “The Lost Poets” :
Made in Amerikkka
by French director Claude Santiago
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
From Michael Parenti :
Date: 2 March 2012
Subjec: Health Care in the USA.
In response to the article I wrote about my experiences with the U.S. health system, I received a number of responses from readers which are gathered here to be shared with readers. Feel free to publish, post, circulate. The earlier article about my experiences has been published and is available on: Michael Parenti Blog.
Free Market Health Care: True Stories
by Michael Parenti
I recently wrote an article about my personal experiences in dealing with the medical system while undergoing surgery (“Free Market Medicine: A Personal Account”). In response, a number of readers sent me accounts of their own experiences trying to get well in America.
Health care in this country is hailed by conservative boosters as “the best medical system in the world.” It certainly is the most expensive, most profitable, and most complicated system in the world, leaving millions of Americans in shock. None of the people who wrote to me had anything positive to say about the U.S. health system. Below are some of the responses to my article. (Several of the senders requested that their real names not be used).
~ This first email, in a few words, contains one of the more familiar stories:
“In the mid-90s I had an attack of sciatica while visiting my wife's daughter in the Bay Area. I went to Alta Bates Emergency. After I waited three hours, a doctor stopped by, saw me for two minutes, gave me a pain prescription & sent me home.
“ Total bill was over $1,000.”
~ Price gouging is the name of the game:
“I had a kidney stone which was causing me great pain. I drove myself to the emergency ward where I was told the kidney stone was so large that it had to be ‘shattered.’ I spent one night in the hospital. The operation was performed early the next morning. My family had to come pick me up which they did by noon that same day. I wasn’t even in the hospital for 24 hours. Imagine my shock when the bill came. It was $57,000, not including the doctor’s bill! I actually thought it was a typo. I thought they had put the comma in the wrong place.
“Blue Cross paid it, except for $2,500 which I had to pay. Then Blue Cross promptly dumped me.”
~ In my original article, I did not have much to say about pharmaceutical costs, but this next reader does:
“Medicare cannot negotiate drug prices, which means that the one Rx I take costs over $700 every three months, of which I pay $90 until I reach the ‘doughnut hole,’ which happens with just this one drug. When I first started on this medication, the cost was about $350, so it has doubled in just three years. No improvements, it's the same exact drug and there are no generics. The only change is the higher price!
“ Speaking of higher prices, I just renewed my prescription and the three month cost has increased again, from $718 to $781. My doctor at Kaiser said that should I get into the ‘doughnut hole’ she would give me a prescription I can use at a Canadian pharmacy. It's crazy that even with a drug coverage plan, I'll eventually have to buy from a Canadian pharmacy!”
---Joan Leslie Taylor
~ Another subject deserving of more attention, iatrogenic disaster:
“The U.S. medical/hospital/industrial system as it has developed is horrifying to me. I went through the hospital and nursing home process with my late parents in the 90s up through 2000 when my mother died from an infection from an antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria, Mercer, caught in the hospital.
“At least you were not subject to staying overnight and having to endure a hospital food system which is criminally poor in nutritional value. . . . Plus the added risk of infection.”
~ Here is another reported tragic mishap:
“When the nurses went on strike at Alta Bates, a friend of mine was being treated for her uterine cancer, which was finally in remission. The replacement nurse misdiagnosed the treatment and connected a tube in an erroneous way. My friend tragically died from the mishap. Such a sweet, wonderful person taken by medical error.
“So, my friend, you were basically lucky that you got out with your life. [My wife] recently had a small procedure and she is still getting bills from the treatment - six months later. In other words, you are right, be prepared for the other shoe to drop.”
~ Medical care in America for the longest time has been all about owing, billing, and paying. This letter deals with events from fifteen years ago. (The writer is herself an M.D. who is on disability):
“I have had my own disastrous hospitalization. In 1997, I had private insurance that left a lot unpaid. The hospital ate some of the uncovered costs as a one time only concession, but the "extras" (anesthesiologist, radiologists, etc.) insisted on full payment. I went over the supplies billing and was shocked at the repetitions and also waste. . . .
“At that time almost all my income from Workman’s Comp went to pay my insurance coverage. Within a couple of years I was unable to continue to afford being insured due to pre-existing conditions.
“The whole thing was so traumatic, I couldn't even write about it, though I wanted to! And I signed myself out a day early because I felt unsafe due to the many errors of omission or neglect made in my 3 days there.
“A problem which I could not prove was surgical or due to post-op neglect left me with one-and-a-half years of rehab, a limp, and continued hip pain which, by the way, was not the area that was to be addressed by the surgery-- it was my neck! But they took some bone from my hip to fix the neck... and apparently, the hip ended up being less well connected to the rest of me afterwards. And that was Free Market Medicine and Worker's protection health benefits 15 years ago.”
~ Among the hardest hit are the homeless. Here is a report from the field, from someone who works for Task Force for the Homeless:
“Every day we ‘house’ 500-700 homeless Atlantans [Georgia], who are men, mostly. We distribute mail daily as well, and the bulk of the mail is hospital bills from our former ‘charity’ hospital which is now a private hospital. Homeless men who owe that hospital for treatment are often denied jobs and housing because of their credit problems. We are in the process of fighting those bills. All too often, our friends don't even seek treatment because they know they cannot pay. The prescriptions at that same hospital cost $10 each, and so people who take more than one medication often go without, as in the case of one man who has heart failure [and needed] life-saving medication.”
~ A reader offers a look at the Swiss system:
“Last year I had four eye surgeries and breast cancer and the maximum I paid was 7000 CHF for it all. I had to fight to get out of the hospital after five days because they wanted to make absolutely sure I had no problem with drainage. I was able to walk out (no wheelchairs). A portion of my insurance payment does go to cover people who can't afford insurance. I'm fine with that.
“I had a team that still keeps tabs on me and a lead nurse who is there 24/7 (she does have off time with a substitute who is there for whatever I need.).
“No way would I ever live in the US again. It's too cruel. I do carry insurance that if I were in the US and I get sick, I get air ‘freighted’ back to a civilized society.”
~ From a friend in Canada:
“I am just appalled reading your account---although our Conservative government is trying very hard to destroy our cherished health care system these days. But to give you a personal example, my husband just had a total hip replacement and is due for another one this summer. Five years ago he had a serious bowel operation which required a nine day stay at the hospital.
“ NO bills were sent to us for either of these operations. It is all included in our health care system OHIP for Ontario. Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
“The only cost this time is for buying a commode chair, a bath bench and a walker ( which we could have rented). And we will be able to deduct these expenses on our income taxes. We also have a $100.oo deductible yearly for our medications so it cost us about $6 to $8 for each prescription.
~ From another friend in Canada; after giving a detailed account of the excellent free treatment accorded her mother, she added:
“Far too many Americans accept an utterly depraved and bizarre system of health-care-for-profit. The health system in the USA is an aberration. Many Americans have been led to think that we Canadians pay a fortune for our health care in taxes. But Americans already pay more per capita in taxes for health care (that most of you don't receive) than do Canadians. We get full, FREE coverage, no questions asked.
“Our system is under attack by the Conservatives. But so far, only free prescription drugs have been taken away from my Mum's coverage. She now pays about 20% of the cost of her heart medications. Until about a decade ago they were totally free of charge.
“Meanwhile, my fellow Canadians are being lied to, and many are being hoodwinked. They look at the TV commercials for American for-profit health care, and listen to Fox television and its Canadian counterpart, Sun television, and the ranting of Prime Minister Steven Harper, and conclude that we have an inferior system.”
~ These observations from a friend in England:
"I just read your article - a lot of it left me speechless. Some I am not surprised by; my friends in California have told me about their own horror stories when it comes to accessing health care. The National Health Service [in the U.K.] is far from perfect but we had peace of mind when a family friend had surgery recently and was taken to and from the hospital by mini-bus—so different from your experience. . . .
"I noticed when interviewing some of my refugee/asylum seeking clients that a huge percentage of them are given anti-depressants. Doctors readily hand out prescription drugs rather than referring to other services (which are more costly). I can now easily spot when someone is taking them as their memory is often bad and they have delayed responses to my questions. One man I was talking to the other day from Zimbabwe has been taking anti-depressants for seven years and was prescribed them after just one meeting with his doctor. We used to have an NHS service in Nottingham where I live called Health In Mind who were great with supporting refugees suffering post-traumatic stress, but it's been scrapped now. Companies who supply anti-depressants must be making a fortune here.
In sum, readers found the conditions I described in my earlier article to be quite unsettling. But the above comments indicate that many people in the USA have a story of their own to tell about the heartless medical industry. And people abroad make clear to us that their “socialized” medical systems are more humane and less cruel than ours---even if they too sometimes suffer from faulty practices.
The corporate goal in the United States and elsewhere is to treat medical care not as a human right but as a market-determined profit-driven service. We should unequivocally demand socialized medicine, that is, a publicly funded and publicly administered system whose purpose is human care rather than profit accumulation. It will cost so much less and serve us so much better.
Michael Parenti’s most recent book is The Face of Imperialism (2011). For more information about his work, see his website: www.michaelparenti.org, and the Michael Parenti Blog.
From Cynthia McKinney :
Date: 26 February 2012
Subject: Look at What President Obama's Allies Do in Libya.
This video was sent to me by someone with a name I do not recognize. The link was accompanied only by two words, "Please help."
Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.
"The biggest weapon in the hands of the oppressors is the minds of the oppressed." Steve Biko
"Any attempt to establish lines of division among biological populations is both arbitrary and subjective." American Anthropological Association 1999
From CNIF :
Date: 1 March 2012
Subject: The Israeli attempt to assassinate a US Senator.
As you know from the exclusive interview with former Senator James Abourezk I sent last week, there was an Israeli scheme to murder him.
Now Senator Abourezk has another powerful article – describing two bombing incidents, relating an incident about Alan Dershowitz, and telling about the Israel Lobby's penetration into the U.S. State Department. Please share these stories with your own message and send them to anyone you think should have the information.
I suggest you also e-mail these excellent articles to this media list and members of Congress.
As always, please be assured your financial support and help in educating and motivating people on the issues concerning the Israel lobby is deeply appreciated.
Council for the National Interest Foundation
1350 Beverly Rd., Suite 115 · McLean, VA 22101
· 202.863.2951 ·
From George Kenney :
Date: 2 March 2012
Subject: : Religion and the American Radical Tradition.
Being in many ways a political product of the 1960s I look back -- and despite not being religious in an institutional sense -- with a lot of nostalgia to the days of William Sloane Coffin and the other radical preachers without whom so many social reforms wouldn't have been possible. And I have to ask myself, where are the churches today?! To try to get at this question I turned to Dr. Dan McKanan of the Harvard Divinity School, who has a new book out, Prophetic Encounters: Religion and the American Radical Tradition (Beacon, 2011). Somewhat to my surprise, to be honest, I think that Dan gets at an important part of the answer to my question: that prophetic witness isn't just a solitary affair but involves, in his terms, a "host" of believers.
Btw, please don't be mislead by my pestering Dan about some of his arguments. I have a great deal of respect for his learning -- if you take a look at his cv you'll see what I mean… I found it exhausting just reading through, for example, the unbelievably lengthy list of book reviews he's written…
As always, if you like this one please forward the link.
Thanks for listening!
From Counter Punch :
Date: 21 February 2012
Subject: Another member of the family.
Meet the New York Times’ New Israel-Palestine News Chief
by ALISON WEIR
From ZMag :
Date: 27 February 2012
Subject: SDS meeting on the meaning of "higher education" today.
Education For Whom and For What?
By Noam Chomsky
From Truth Out :
Date: 1 March 2012
Subject: Occupy Activists in 70 Cities nationwide.
Protesters in Portland, Oregon, and Tucson, Arizona, faced very different weather when they hit the streets yesterday, but they had one thing in common: they were among 70 cities nationwide where Occupy activists and others spoke out against members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose decades-long history of authoring and pushing pro-corporate legislation through the nation's statehouses has been criticized for strangling political and economic participation across the country.
A Tale of Two Protests: Shut Down the Corporations in Portland and Tucson
by Alissa Bohling and Mike Ludwig