Friday, 5 March 2010

Throwin’ Out The Trash #4

Late Friday afternoons are traditionally the time that politicians, businesses, celebrities, etc, release bad news to the public in the hope that they won’t see it. Season 1, episode 13, of The West Wing calls this “Take Out The Trash Day”. Each week, there are so many fucked up stories and newsy bits and pieces that cross my path in this 24/7 media blitzkrieg that we’re living in, and I simply do not have the time or inclination to write a full-on commentary piece about all of them. Throwin’ Out The Trash is my chance each week to clear the decks of all these niggling odds and sods without ignoring them completely…


First off I simply have to comment on the eye-opening horror with which I have recently been re-reading Howard Zinn’s amazing People’s History of the United States.

The first time I read this book, I was sixteen years old, and though I got its basic gist and was shocked by much of what I read (it never let me look at history the same way again), there was a certain youthful naivety that went into my reading of it. For one thing, having not been raised in America and thus not been taught the formal lessons of US history directly from the mouths of the victors, it presumed a basic knowledge of the standard version of events that, at the time, I just didn’t have. For another, there is a depth and scope of the argument that surrounds the historical accounts – the real philosophical meat of the book – that I was really too young to fully understand at the time. Or at least too ignorant of the wider political context to make it meaningful.

Since that first read, I have gone back to the book many times. But usually only for chapters on specific subjects which I was writing about at the time. I hadn’t read it chronologically – from start to finish – since I was a teenager, and when Zinn died a month ago, I decided it was high time to return to his magnum opus once again and check it out all these years later from beginning to end, with the eyes of an adult and the brain of a much more learned man.

As of last night, I had reached up to the First World War, and though – having read it before, and studied bits of it on and off throughout the last twelve years – I was well aware going in of all the terrible things about American history that it exposed, the most depressing thing about it reading it now, as an adult, is seeing how everything awful that is happening in the world today has been happening over and over again since 1492. Though the resistance remains permanent, and at all stages of history there has been uprisings and rebellion from the oppressed masses – just as there is now – the lie beneath the benevolence of our “democratic” system is lain out in stark black and white: laws that control and make obedient; wars for private profit; the rich getting richer via the exploitation of the poor; the intentional quelling of revolutionary rage through legislative bribery and misdirecting jingoism; people consistently being manipulated to work against their own interests for the benefit of their masters… Everything I hate about the world now, everything that is ingrained into our system; in A People’s History you see the entire foundation for our current oppression be built brick by brick by a minority of elites who treated nations as playthings for their own amusement and wealth.

If you haven’t read this book already: do. If you have read it before: read it again.


As I write this, Gordon Brown is giving evidence at the Chilcot Inquiry.

Should I be watching it? Should I be concerned with what he says? After seeing Blair’s performance – and the pass he received from the media and his colleagues for expertly lying with a smile – I have no interest in what Brown has to say for himself. I don’t need a public inquiry to know the facts: an illegal and unjustified war was declared, and Brown, as Chancellor, willingly wrote the cheques and continued the war when he became Prime Minister.

What else is there left to say?


It was nice to see the Armenian genocide finally called the Armenian genocide.

I really have no informed opinion on this matter except that when I was a kid listening to the first System of a Down album, I remember Serj (the band’s front-man) used to talk about the Armenian genocide (and it’s deletion from history) all the time. Serj was cool and his politics were sound: if Serj says it was genocide, then I decided it was genocide. Evidently, 95 years later, so too does the U.S., despite Hillary Clinton’s best protests.


The underlying philosophy of this Blog has always been that, though an avowed anarchist, and believer that all mainstream political parties represent elite interests and not the genuine interests of the population they claim to represent, until we see real political change we have to operate in the world that we’ve got. As such, there is an argument to support parties of “the left” over parties of “the right”, if only because – on a very minor scale; the only scale that we have – the propagated differences between the two main parties must at least be paid lip service to, in order to maintain the illusion of democracy. These superficial differences, to which parties are publically perceived to be bound, therefore create a genuine and distinct difference in the tone of our oppression under governments of the left and governments of the right. Though we are oppressed in all cases – and must continue striving to change the system entirely if we ever want that to change – our oppression is “better” under governments of the left because their ostensible guiding philosophy does not allow – in the public’s eye – for the same extreme transgressions as found in governments of the right.

I’ve always said that, when choosing between left and right, you just have to look at each side’s more extreme ends in order to assess which one is objectively better for society. On the left, the most extreme form of bomb-throwing terrorists are throwing those bombs because they want an end to tyrannical government who oppress and exploit the majority of their citizens, and wish to establish a world where the people are in control of their own lives, their days are not spent enslaved to bosses and banks, and a more humane and free society will evolve, based on mutual cooperation and freedom instead of competition and greed.

On the right, we have Nazis.

And in America at the moment, according to a recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, there has been a 250% rise in extremist right-wing “patriot” groups since the election of Barack Obama.

"Already there are signs of ... violence emanating from the radical right. Since the installation of Barack Obama, right-wing extremists have murdered six law enforcement officers. Racist skinheads and others have been arrested in alleged plots to assassinate the nation's first black president. One man from Brockton, Massachusetts – who told police he had learned on white supremacist websites that a genocide was under way against whites – is charged with murdering two black people and planning to kill as many Jews as possible on the day after Obama's inauguration. Most recently, a rash of individuals with anti-government, survivalist or racist views have been arrested in a series of bomb cases."

The surge in such groups and their associated violence is, according to the SPLC, in part because their views are now aired nightly on places like Fox News and Conservative talk radio, with crack-pot conspiracy theories once considered extreme and discredited now forming part of the mainstream debate.

Weird huh? The conservatives who are coming after Obama claim that it’s nothing to do with his race (it’s to do with him being a communist – a bank-lovin’, war-expandin’, non-healthcare providin’ communist!), yet their arguments are helping to fuel this distinctly racist fire…


Speaking of Obama not being the Communist the right believe him to be, who else is sick of the pantomime surrounding the ill-fated healthcare bill?

Now that any attempt at dialogue between the two parties have allegedly failed, the word is that the President shall be attempting to fast-track his bill through Congress.

What seems to be lost in all this irrelevant conversation about who’s won what – will the bill be a victory for Obama; or will concessions found within it be a victory for the Republicans? – is the fact that this is supposed to be about providing universal healthcare to American citizens, not about which political party is best at getting bills through Congress, and on that count the President’s bill – and every bill that came into either house – spectacularly fails.

The American people want single-payer, universal healthcare as is available in every other industrialized country in the world. Boasts that a new bill might cover 96% of the people or 98% of the people just aren’t good enough: 100% and it should be free. That’s what we have here in Britain, and it’s what America should have over there.

There is literally nothing complicated about this once you take away all the vested interests – you pay through it with taxes, and if you need more taxes you tax the rich, but even if you tax the people a little more than you currently do, without them having to pay for health insurance, they could not only afford it but it would be cheaper. Everyone is covered – no one dies unnecessarily; no one goes broke because they got cancer or had a baby. End of discussion.

Obama, Republicans, Democrats – their failings to get this done is, to them, not a failing. It is an expertly played piece of political theatre that makes it seem impossible for their citizens to have the thing they actually want and sells them a twisted form of compromise which they can then sell to voters as a victory.


I was going to write something about the Californian guy who got eight years in jail for stealing a piece of cheese…but what more can be said about the stupid three strikes rule?

45000 people die in America per year because of lack of healthcare, yet is anyone being arrested about that?

What about those war criminals Bush and Cheney? And now Obama, Biden and Clinton?

Tough on crime: so long as it’s the right crime.


Still no word from Councillor Dawkins regarding my reply to his last letter – I guess he’s realized I won’t be voting for him or his party so I’m probably not worth the email anymore (or he’s waiting for answers from head office).

If there’s one thing I learn from watching Question Time each week it’s that politicians don’t like being called up on their spin. Seriously – look at these people’s faces whenever they’re asked a follow-up question regarding a talking-point statement or statistic that they’ve dutifully churned out. It’s like a rabbit caught in the headlights. And then they give Dimbleby this headmaster’s look to a naughty schoolboy, the one that says – now you know you’re not allowed to do that David – before returning to avoiding the question and talking about something else instead.

How has it come to the point where we allow these people to do that? Talk show guests who are only there to sell their products, political guests who are only there to sell their policies. Whatever happened to journalism?


Finally, Max and the Marginalized are a band I only found out about a few days ago and yet they are quickly becoming a huge favourite. Relevant, political, and putting their art and activism before their profits, here’s the video that set the ball in motion for me…

If you like their stuff, check out the website. You can download their songs for free or buy a sweet $5 zip file of all 62 tracks!


  1. If we really want immediate relief, and not an ongoing bipartisan debacle on national healthcare insurance coverage, why not legislate by reconciliation a simple Medicare buy-in for all option, sliding scale based on income, continue payroll tax but without a cut-off and at a lower rate to keep the buy-in cost low; those without means for any buy-in get government subsidy. Private insurers who want to continue in that business can give better service/coverage beyond Medicare or whatever they think the customers will buy from them with whatever conditions they choose.

    Since ]the Medicare infrastructure is already in place, it could more quickly and easily work than putting together a whole new scheme. It could also be a job booster by putting more money into low income pockets (people most likely to spend) and giving small business a break from having to compete with the drag of providing healthcare. I do want to point out that I am proposing the buy-in as an option for those who so choose. Private insurers can still make profit by good old American competition for those whom they want to insure (those less likely to need high-cost pay-outs). Yet, the Medicare plan will have even more volume for cost-cutting clout and a greater income stream to keep Medicare solvent.

    Still, we must remember to continue to work on the underlying problem of high medical cost. I think it would help to seriously look at best practices both medically and fiscally and to better promote what works, including treatments that are considered nontraditional in this culture. I also think we need to expand access to medical education (on all levels, not just MDs), and expand efforts to educate the public generally on positive health practices and self-treatment options.

  2. That sounds like a fine step to me. Here in the UK we all have the state-run NHS, no one is denied care and the term "pre-existing condition" is simply not in our vocabulary. Healthcare is free and available to everyone, and no one has ever lost their home because they got sick, or died for lack of treatment that they were simply too poor to afford.

    Despite this, there are still plenty of private medical companies and private insurers who work alongside the public health system. These companies offer, say, a speedier service (maybe the NHS says I have to wait 2 months for a non-essential operation; the private folks will let me have it tomorrow, for the right price), a more comfortable service (private rooms, etc), or, in terms of health insurance, lower rates on private healthcare if you choose to go down that route.

    They still operate and they still make profit, but not at the expense of universal healthcare.

    They are also kept in check in terms of what they can charge because every consumer knows that they can get what the private companies are offering at a cost for free, or for an incredibly subsidized price, via the NHS.

    45,000 people a year die from lack of health insurance in America - that's FIFTEEN 9/11s A YEAR. With a click of their fingers a Congress who actually cared about its people could change all that in an instant. The fact that they haven't must give one serious doubts as to whose interests this democracy really serves.