The World & Beyond

The writings of a global transient.

Month: February 2016

The Best Heath Care In The World

Donald Trump has further angered the establishment right by saying that part of the problem with Republicans is opposition to National Health Care.

Trump Can Win“That’s part of the problem with the Republicans, somehow they got fed into this horrible position,” Trump said. “We’re going to take care of people.”

Im not writing to take sides on this issue one way or the other, but rather to at least make sure that people arent debating the issue under a false premise, as I used to when I listen to right-wing talk radio.

In the US there has been for the last 20 years a wide ranging argument over healthcare. The debate is completely warped by roughly half of the country believing that the US has The best health care in the world even if there are some issues, and perhaps costs are high.

I used to believe this in the 90s when I listened to Rush Limbaugh every day and read National Review.  Why? I had never rush_limbaugh
been to another country outside of first class vacations with my parents or once when I went to Montreal with my French class in 8th grade. I had no basis for believing this whatsoever, and yet I believed it. I wasnt alone.  Tens of million of Americans believe this without any evidence whatsoever.

For the record: It is not true. Its a massive, monstrous lie. I have used medical services in: Italy, Albania, Poland, Latvia, Kenya, Tanzania and Panama. It was better than the US everywhere except Albania where I had to bribe the nurse 100 dollars the night my daughter was born.

Kenya Doctors

In Kenya if you get sick you walk to the Pharmacy. Whos in the Pharmacy? A doctor. An African doctor? Yup. And guess what? Hes great. Hes spent the last 10 years treating sick people and had to do his first years out in the bush treating people 18 hours a day with horrific diseases. He exists to treat people who are sick, not to build a practice around convincing people to get back surgeries they dont need and over 50% of the time dont work so that he can bill their insurance 100K.

You walk in, you talk to him. He knows what you have. He treats sick people all day, 6 days a week, 12 hours a day or more. You dont fill out any paperwork or listen to the person in front of you complain that her copay is 25 when she thinks it should only be 20.

He gives you pills, you give him 10 dollars. Transaction complete.

And its not just for minor things. I had Malaria in Tanzania and the medical care was excellent.

In Latvia I cracked some ribs after riding a bike out to the Rumbula forest where 25,000 jews were massacred over a few days. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumbula_massacre).

I was in bad shape when I woke up the next day. So, I went to the doctor. Now, it turns out there isnt much you can do for cracked ribs anyway, but this is how the process went: I checked in. The lady behind the desk asked me what was wrong. I told her. I filled out one very small form. She told me it would be about an hour. I asked if I could go to lunch and come back. She said sure, take your time, you wont lose your place. So i went and had lunch and a couple of beers. I went back and walked right into the doctor. 40 euros.

In Italy once my Italian friend took me to the doctor. I didnt wait at all. After figuring out quickly that I needed antibiotics my friend and he discussed payment a bit before the doctor said Eh, dont worry about it.

I have become so disgusted with US healthcare that I worry about getting sick in the US. Last year on my way to Panama I started to feel sick and thought good thing Im leaving the US.

In the US how often do you listen to people worry about their health insurance? Its nearly constant. Yet I have never once NOT ONCE.. heard my friends overseas worry about their health care ever. Either they have national health insurance, or, there is a free market in health care and they can get health care at a reasonable price.

Yet, tens of millions of Americans believe this monstrous lie? Why? it fits in with the American exceptionalism that has been drilled into their heads.  Something I will be writing about more in another post.

Propaganda and the Military

As an add-on to yesterdays post about propaganda, I would like to drill down a bit on the use of propaganda and its relation to the U.S. military and the various wars it is constantly engaged in.

In the 1960s as the TV sets became ubiquitous in American homes and watching the evening news was a family affair, the military had yet to grasp just how influential the television could be in shaping public opinion about Military conflicts.

As a result, reporters were relatively free to report on battlefield conditions in Vietnam, air candid interviews with troops, and report what they wanted about the conflict. The result was pictures such as these:

Napalm girl Vietnam Execution

Both Presidents Johnson and Nixon were outraged that reporters would show images such as these. The Presidents believed that the media had an obligation to help America win the war, and if that meant lying about it then so be it.

An excellent 10-minute documentary highlights the beginning of this conflict, which started with Morely Safers report on August 5, 1965, following a Marine search and destroy machine which showed Marines burning peoples homes to the ground:

The medias free access to report on Vietnam brought Johnsons presidency to an end and ultimately forced the United States out of the war.

The White House and the Military learned from this lesson, and in 1983, they banned the press altogether for the first two days of the Grenada Operation.

Next up was the first Gulf War.

The 24-hour news coverage of it gave the impression of unprecedented press access to the war. The reality was the opposite. The Militarys policy on press reporting was spelled out in Annex Foxtrot which stated:

News media representatives will be escorted at all times. Repeat, at all times,

It also created press pools which the military supplied with its own information and video, and Annex Foxtrot also gave the military the power of prior restraint, which allowed it to censor press reports before they were released.

One might expect that the press would have complained. In my opinion, the press should have refused to cover the war at all, and instead, let military reporters provide information so that at least the public would know clearly where the information was coming from. However, that didnt happen.

Instead, the press presented the affair as an almost non-stop Hollywood action movie, complete with its heroes and villains, and made temporary stars out of many of the on-screen subjects. This was good for ratings, and that was more important than ethics.

In short, the world only got to see what the Military wanted it to see.

This standard of close to 100% Military control over news coverage has, in fact, gotten worse. Now the media helps to stage PR stunts for the government. The iconic video of Iraqis toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein was nothing more than a PR stunt, conducted by a small group of Iraqis, journalists, and Marines themselves.

Journalists on the ground cautioned their editors that it was a relatively minor event, only to be admonished by his editor that he, the journalist, was in the wrong for not seeing the importance of it.

A 3 minute summary of the event is here:

The major media, along with the government, blew the event up into a major story of historical significance. Time has proved that to be wrong, as it turns out the Iraqis werent as excited to have us invade their country as the government and media had us believe.

The lesson in all of this is that since Vietnam the press has become a propaganda arm of the United States Military and that one should believe literally nothing that is said by the major media on military or foreign policy affairs.

This will become as clear as can be if one examines our relationship with Iran, which will be the subject of my post tomorrow.

Americans Are Inundated With Propaganda and Dont Know It

As an add-on to yesterdays post about propaganda, I would like to drill down a bit on the use of propaganda and its relation to the U.S. military and the various wars it is constantly engaged in.

In the 1960s as the TV sets became ubiquitous in American homes and watching the evening news was a family affair, the military had yet to grasp just how influential the television could be in shaping public opinion about Military conflicts.

As a result, reporters were relatively free to report on battlefield conditions in Vietnam, air candid interviews with troops, and report what they wanted about the conflict.  The result was pictures such as these:

 

Napalm girl Vietnam Execution

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Presidents Johnson and Nixon were outraged that reporters would show images such as these.  The Presidents believed that the media had an obligation to help America win the war, and if that meant lying about it then so be it.

An excellent 10-minute documentary highlights the beginning of this conflict, which started with Morely Safers report on August 5, 1965, following a Marine search and destroy machine which showed Marines burning peoples homes to the ground:

The medias free access to report on Vietnam brought Johnsons presidency to an end and ultimately forced the United States out of the war.

The White House and the Military learned from this lesson, and in 1983, they banned the press altogether for the first two days of the Grenada Operation.

Next up was the first Gulf War.

The 24-hour news coverage of it gave the impression of unprecedented press access to the war.  The reality was the opposite.  The Militarys policy on press reporting was spelled out in Annex Foxtrot which stated:

News media representatives will be escorted at all times. Repeat, at all times,

It also created press pools which the military supplied with its own information and video, and Annex Foxtrot also gave the military the power of prior restraint, which allowed it to censor press reports before they were released.

One might expect that the press would have complained.  In my opinion, the press should have refused to cover the war at all, and instead, let military reporters provide information so that at least the public would know clearly where the information was coming from.  However, that didnt happen.

Instead, the press presented the affair as an almost non-stop Hollywood action movie, complete with its heroes and villains, and made temporary stars out of many of the on-screen subjects.  This was good for ratings, and that was more important than ethics.

In short, the world only got to see what the Military wanted it to see.

This standard of close to 100% Military control over news coverage has, in fact, gotten worse.  Now the media helps to stage PR stunts for the government.  The iconic video of Iraqis toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein was nothing more than a PR stunt, conducted by a small group of Iraqis, journalists, and Marines themselves.

Journalists on the ground cautioned their editors that it was a relatively minor event, only to be admonished by his editor that he, the journalist, was in the wrong for not seeing the importance of it.

A 3 minute summary of the event is here:

 

The major media, along with the government, blew the event up into a major story of historical significance.  Time has proved that to be wrong, as it turns out the Iraqis werent as excited to have us invade their country as the government and media had us believe.

The lesson in all of this is that since Vietnam the press has become a propaganda arm of the United States Military and that one should believe literally nothing that is said by the major media on military or foreign policy affairs.

This will become as clear as can be if one examines our relationship with Iran, which will be the subject of my post tomorrow.

Getting rid of your phone

A lot has been written about people becoming slaves to their Smartphones.  That was (and perhaps still is) the case with me. Previously I saw the phone as a liberator because the phone and the computer allowed me to do what I do, which has included vastly simplifying my life in all regards but still being able to run my business.

Well, having simplified almost everything else, my main problem was this damn phone I am checking every 30 seconds.

I had started trying to set limits for myself around 3 months ago. Limit 1 was simply not to use it in the car whatsoever. Limit 2 was turning it off at 9pm and not turning it on in the morning until I showered and made my coffee.

iphone-iphone5-colors

 

Some of these things caused issues because people were used to me answering them promptly, but people started getting used to it.

Prior to the current month-long trip to Panama, Anguilla, and then back to Panama that i am on, my I-phone was on the fritz and I figured it didnt have too long to live. I mentioned this to my ex-wife a month ago and she said she has a near brand-new I-Phone 5 that she got when her step-dad died and I could have it.

Its a big process getting an I-Phone unattached from an apple account, including having the executor of the state prove his credentials, etc.

So, I left off to Panama with my I-Phone and this backup Iphone that still wasnt usable.

On the first week of my trip my I-Phone went dead for good. I was in Panama City at the time.  My first thought was f*ck, I am going to have to buy a phone tomorrow.  My second thought was Eh, I will wait until I am in St. Martin on Sunday, they will be cheaper there, then on the plane I thought Eh, I will just do nothing about it for now, and call Apple on monday.

Its now been two weeks and I still dont have a working phone.  It turns out that Apple really, really wants you to buy a new I-phone, as I am still getting the run around even though I, and the executor of the estate have both jumped through all of the hoops that Apple has asked us to jump through.

A big part of me, however, doesnt really want to get a new phone.  I am perfectly happy without one.

The first day in Panama without a phone went like this:

I was making plans with friends. Most people outside the US communicate on whatsapp, which now I didnt have.

So, I just emailed one guy in the group and said just email me back when and where to be, I dont care what we do really.

I got a response back an hour later and that was the extent of my planning

instead of the usual messaging between 3-4 different people and the endless Im here, where are you?  messages.

On Sunday my plane to St. Martin was late, so I missed my ferry to Anguilla and had no way of telling the lady who was going to pick me up at the ferry (the free wifi at the SXM airport never works). I also didnt have any minutes on my Anguilla phone (just a cheap piece of junk).

At first I panicked a bit.  Suddenly I had a problem because I did not have a phone, but in the end I just walked 100 yards to a place with wifi and sent her a skype message.

In any event, I have been totally happy without a phone.   I do have a google voice number so I can make and receive calls over my laptop.  Also, anyone who really needs to get in touch with me can do so by skype, email, or Facebook.  However, it sure feels great not being distracted by constant text and whatsapp messages.

I will of course have to get another cell phone.  I would prefer if Apple would just unlock this perfectly good one that I have, but I have a feeling that they wont.  In that case, I am certainly not going to buy an I-Phone, just so I dont reward Apples behavior.

I have a client who has never owned a smartphone.  When I first met him 2.5 years ago I was incredulous that this tech-savvy guy didnt have one, but I am starting to come around to his way of thinking and perhaps I will go that route.

I want you to turn off cellphone

If I do eventually get this I-Phone activated I will learn how to implement the features that only allow calls and texts from select numbers for much of the day.  Maybe Ill allow an hour of texts in the morning, and another in the afternoon.

 

Otherwise, I am enjoying the peace and quiet and the increase in my productivity from not having a phone.

I highly suggest that everyone try turning their phones off Friday afternoon and not turning them back on until Monday morning.  I guarantee that you will enjoy it.

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