Posts Tagged ‘Healthcare’


Radicalized, by Cory Doctorow front cover(Radicalized, by Cory Doctorow. Tor-Forge, 2019, 304 pp., $26.99)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

Radicalized consists of three novellas and one longish short story — all described as “tales” on the dust jacket, probably in part to avoid quibbles over terminology. It’s highly entertaining and provides a good example of science fiction at its best: it shows just how relevant, how useful science fiction can be. It stands in stark contrast to the escapist, often scientifically illiterate space operas, big-dumb-object stories, coming-of-age tales, superhero juvenilia, and medievalist court-intrigue/sword-and-sorcery dreck that dominate the sci-fi field.

Radicalized‘s four near-future stories deal in turn with the inhumane treatment of immigrants in the U.S.; potential nightmare scenarios due to the ever-spreading Internet of Things (which Boing Boing, Doctorow’s site, refers to as the Internet of Shit); systemic racism as seen through the eyes of a very familiar superhero (here dubbed “The American Eagle”); healthcare nightmares endemic to our for-profit healthcare system (and a possible radical response to those nightmares); and an entitled, arrogant member of the super-rich who intends to ride out social breakdown in a fortified compound.

All four stories are well plotted, feature believable, sympathetic characters (but for the mega-rich jerk in the final tale, who’s all too believable, but not at all sympathetic), Doctorow gets the science right, and there’s more on-the-nose social and political commentary in this slim volume than there is in a dozen average sci-fi novels combined.

Highly recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (large pdf sample here). He just finished translating Rodolfo Montes de Oca’s Venezuelan Anarchism: The History of a Movement, is currently working on the sequel to Free Radicals, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, two compilations, and an unrelated sci-fi novel.

Free Radicals front cover


(This is an update of a post I wrote about 18 months ago, and have updated a couple of times since.)

No, I’m not kidding. Trump has actually done a number of good things.

First, let’s list only the unalloyed positives:

  • Trump has armed the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) fighting ISIS in northern Syria, much to the annoyance of Turkish Islamist would-be dictator and ISIS enabler Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Update: As of January 2018, the U.S. is planning to keep 30,000 troops in northern Syria — the Kurdish part of Syria — and is promising to help the Kurds builda protective border wall on the Syrian-Turkish border, where for once a wall will be a good thing.)

As for the Kurds themselves, the YPG, a major part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is the most effective military entity fighting ISIS in Syria. It’s also the only secular, democratic, libertarian (with a small “l”) force in the region in which gender equality is actively promoted. (There are all-women YPG units.)

It’s worth noting that to appease Islamist thug Erdogan, Hillary Clinton, had she won, would probably not have armed the YPG. All of the facts noted above have been obvious for years, yet Obama refused to arm the YPG. It’s a good bet that former Obama Secretary of State Clinton wouldn’t have, either.

Update 12-23-18: Trump, as was predictable, just betrayed the Kurds by announcing a US pullout from Syria. There were only 2,000 US troops there, but they served as a trip-wire preventing invasion by Ergoghan’s, Assad’s, Putin’s, and the Iranian ayatollah’s thugs. Trump just betrayed the only real allies the U.S. has in the region, the only ones effectively fighting ISIS. God help the Kurds. And god help the people in the region once ISIS comes surging back, like a virulent case of syphilis after an inadequate course of antibiotics.

(For more info, see “The Anarchists vs. the Islamic State.“)

  • Trump killed the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a “free trade” pact and mutant descendant of NAFTA. (I won’t even get started on NAFTA here; for now, suffice it to say that it screwed American industrial workers and Mexican small farmers — spurring a wave of jobless workers across the border,  desperate to provide for their families — while vastly benefiting transnational corporations.) Among other things, the TPP would have a allowed commercial “courts” to overrule U.S. laws, would have made the already atrocious copyright situation even worse, strengthening the hold of the media conglomerates, would have allowed U.S. pharmaceutical firms to force companies in signatory nations to stop producing affordable versions of life-saving drugs, and would have allowed foreign firms to sue the U.S. and U.S. state governments over “loss” of projected profits caused by environmental regulations.

Clinton was in favor of the TPP abomination, calling it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. Until she wasn’t in favor of it. If she’d won, there’d likely have been a few cosmetic changes to it which would have made it “acceptable” to her. And we’d have been further screwed. Trump just did her one better by denouncing NAFTA and then delivering . . . . . NAFTA.

Update: Trump just delivered the rather gay-sounding USMCA. (He even mimed “YMCA” in celebrating it.) It’s essentially NAFTA with minor tweaks and a few minor provisions thrown in from the TPP.  Its $16-an-hour provision might, might, serve as a very minor brake to the export of jobs overseas. (Check out what just happened with GM if you believe this.) At the same time, it contained a provision screwing Canadian and Mexican patients in favor of big pharma by increasing the length of time before generic drugs are available.

  • Trump is reportedly going to crack down on H-1B visa abuse. This type of visa allows employers to hire foreign workers for jobs for which there supposedly aren’t enough qualified American applicants. In practice, this program provides employers with indentured servants working for half the prevailing wages (often in the computer industry). Even worse, some “employers” have been more slave traders than job creators, hiring H-1B workers and then renting them to actual employers while taking part of their wages. (Ironically, in 2017 Trump took advantage of the closely related H-2B program to hire 70 low-skilled workers [cooks, maids, food servers] for his Mar-a-Lago resort.)

Update: Nothing has changed.

  • Trump, almost certainly out of personal pique against CNN, has opposed the ATT-Time-Warner merger, which would have further consolidated media control into fewer and fewer hands.

Update: The merger went through.

  • Trump, through his defeat of Clinton, has partially broken the hold of the corporate Democrats on the Democratic Party — the Republicans’ junior partner in the looting of the American working class — and made it at least possible that the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will ascend.

For decades, the corporate Dems have had a stranglehold on the party as they’ve catered to the corporate elite (e.g., Obama’s refusal to prosecute any of the banksters responsible for the financial crash), taken massive amounts of money from the corporate elite, and refused to advance policies (most notably “Medicare for all”) favored by a large majority of Americans, and an even larger majority of Democrats.

At the same time, the corporate Democrats have been chasing the chimera of the “center” (the maybe 10% of eligible voters who are so poorly informed that they can’t make up their minds until the last minute) while ignoring the vastly higher number of those eligible to vote who don’t even bother to do it (41% in 2016), largely because of disillusionment, largely because they can’t see any real differences between the parties (at least in terms of economics).

Next, a mixed but overall positive move:

  • Trump has been pressuring U.S. allies to increase their military spending to bring it more in line with U.S. spending and thus, in theory, relieve financial pressure on U.S. taxpayers. Thus far he seems to have had some success with Canada, which will increase its military spending by 70% over the coming decade. This would be far more impressive if the U.S. didn’t already account for 43% of world military spending, and if Trump didn’t want to drastically increase that spending.
  • Trump recently signed a judicial sentencing-reform bill. It doesn’t go nearly far enough but it’s a good first step in ending America’s mass-incarceration nightmare (under 5% of world population; 25% of the world’s prisoners).

As for other good things Trump has done deliberately, none come to mind. But he has also inadvertently done some good:

  • He’s laid bare the hypocrisy of the Republican Party on healthcare. Republicans had seven years in which to prepare a replacement for Obamacare, and, after they unexpectedly won the presidency in 2016 (plus both houses of Congress), they had to scramble to come up with a nightmarish mishmash of cuts and half-measures that would have cost 23 million Americans healthcare coverage.
  • Trump has laid bare the hypocrisy of American foreign policy rhetoric. For decades, American “leaders” have been spewing the same line about “defending democracy,” while they’ve been supporting many of the world’s most barbaric dictators and authoritarian regimes. Trump’s praise for Putin, Erdogan, mass murderer Duterte, and our war-criminal, Islamist Saudi “allies” brings out in the open America’s support for dictators and authoritarianism.
  • He’s laid bare the racism of the Republican Party. For half a century Republicans have catered to racists — restricting voting rights of blacks and latinos, persecuting undocumented immigrants, promoting the war on drugs that has devastated black and latino communities, promoting “tough on crime” (tough on poor people) laws, and promoting outright slavery of the incarcerated — while at the same time hypocritically hiding behind code words and insisting that they aren’t racist. Under Trump, Republican racism is out in the open. (Unfortunately, that racism sometimes takes physical form; the assaults and murders it produces are a hideous byproduct of it.)
  • By acting as an apologist for neo-Nazis in the wake of Charlottesville, and by pointing out that Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders, he’s put a spotlight on a seamy side of American “revolutionary” history that virtually no one talks about. (For more info on this see “A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn.)
  • Trump, by announcing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, has ended the sick charade of the U.S. government’s pretensions of being an “honest broker” in the Middle East. In regard to Middle East policy, for decades the government has been hostage to the extreme right wingers in AIPAC, and to a lesser extent the religious right (some of whom want Armageddon), and has actively aided, abetted, and financed the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Trump just tore away the “honest broker” mask.
  • Trump has interrupted the creeping fascism that has been strangling America since at least the time of Truman, in favor of galloping fascism. The good news is that Trump is so repulsive and so inept — good only at manipulating and swindling the fearful, desperate, uninformed, and angry — that he likely won’t succeed in destroying what’s left of our freedoms.

Had Clinton won in 2016, creeping fascism would have continued; nothing would have fundamentally changed; popular discontent and resentment would have continued to fester; even while they controlled both the House and Senate, Republicans would have blamed everything that’s going wrong on the “liberal” (she isn’t) Clinton; and an overt, more competent Republican theofascist would probably have taken power in 2020, which, had Clinton won in 2016, could have meant “game over” for American democracy.

  • Without intending to do it, Trump has spurred a wave of political activism in the U.S., the like of which hasn’t been seen in nearly half a century. This is a good thing for American democracy.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump’s victory in 2016 hasn’t been a total disaster, and in the end might turn out to be a good thing — assuming he doesn’t start a nuclear war or crash the economy. In the long run, a Clinton victory could (in my view would) have turned out a whole lot worse.

Of course, things could and probably will, for now, get worse under Trump. He and his minions will continue to degrade the environment, abet the banksters and other corporate thugs in the looting of the economy, and will continue to impose the evangelical theofascist social agenda on all of us.

Still, they’re probably too inept to stage a Reichstag Fire and get away with it. But god help us if there’s a major terrorist attack. Naomi Klein at The Intercept offers a cogent analysis of this possibility in “The worst of Donald Trump’s toxic agenda lies in wait — a major U.S. crisis will unleash it.”

For now, just be glad that Hillary Clinton isn’t in the White House, and let’s hope for a wave of new social movements; let’s also hope that in the meantime the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will at least temporarily stave off the corporate-lackey Democrats and the theofascist Republicans until there’s an opening for real social change.


My cousin has been in and out of the hospital for the last year. She’s 75, not in good shape, and I have medical power of attorney (as the only nearby relative). It’s been wearing on me — a lot. I’ve been worrying about where she’ll go and what will happen to her after she runs out of money.

In contrast, and worse, what in hell happens to people who are under Medicare age? A very good friend of mine was tortured by cancer for the last decade (including — do not ever under any circumstances do this; it just ain’t worth it, and it doesn’t extend life — prostatectomy), and he and his wife spent probably half their life savings on experimental treatments before he died two months ago.

It was awful to watch.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief tonight when I (rather, the placement agent) found a good place for my cousin.

She’s on Medicare, has enough bucks for a few years, and is going to a place that won’t kick her out (will take Medicare) after her money runs out if she survives that long.

So, “socialized medicine,” Medicare, saved her ass.

For people under 65, it’s still a horror show — albeit a very profitable horror show. There are over one million personal bankruptcies annually due to medical bills in the U.S. In other words, over a million middle-class Americans lose everything they’ve got every year due to medical bills, and the insurance industry and big pharma reap the benefits.

And it gets worse. After giving away a fortune to the 1%, close to $2 trillion, in Trump’s tax scam, it’s virtually certain that the GOP will plead “fiscal responsibility” and try to kneecap both Medicare and Medicaid, driving up our costs, if not eliminating Medicare and Medicaid entirely.

This is all you really need to ask yourself when considering the GOP/corporado mantra justifying horrendous health costs (USA is by far the highest) and being at or near the bottom of health outcomes for industrialized countries):

They warn you against “nameless, faceless bureaucrats making your health decisions for you.”

But what in hell do they think is going on now? Nameless, faceless insurance-industry, profit-driven ‘bureaucrats making your healthcare decisions for you? For their corporate, profit-driven masters rather than you?

How could anything possibly be worse for you than nameless, faceless corporate bureaucrats searching for reasons to deny your claim, and doing their best to maximize profits by providing the minimum amount of healthcare they can possibly get away with? Think about it.

Forgive me, but somehow I’ll trust that non-interested government bureaucrat rather than an insurance company tool.

Count me in for “socialized medicine.”


Trump backed down. He backed down from systematic child abuse and holding abused children hostage to his demand for a useless-as-tits-on-a-boar-hog border wall.

That he would even consider, let alone implement, a policy that traumatizes children and uses the abused children as hostages tells you all you need to know about him.

Add to that the fact that he wasn’t man enough to take responsibility for his horrific actions and attempted to blame others for what he did, and you really begin to understand what Trump is. (Come up with your own epithets — they’re almost certainly accurate.)

But Trump’s actions reveal more than his lack of character, they reveal the “character” of the scared-shitless Republicans in Congress who wouldn’t denounce the pure evil of deliberate, organized child abuse and holding children hostage. They wouldn’t, and won’t, stand up for what’s right if it threatens their self-interests.

As for Trump’s supporters, the most charitable explanation is that they’re brainwashed, frustrated fools (via Fox “News” and Facebook) who take the Glorious Leader’s every word as gospel, no matter how obviously false and self-contradictory. The less charitable interpretation is that they’re fear-driven, vicious racists.

I take a more charitable view:  they’re simply focused on their own economic survival, are too dumb to understand that Trump is not on their side, don’t care about the suffering of others, and are primed to blame scapegoats for their problems.

How can we reach them?

It is possible. At least in some cases. The corporate Democrats (and Republicans) systematically screwed over the white working class over the past four decades, leaving jobless, rotting, hopeless communities in their wake as they catered to the corporate overlords who funded their identity-politics, elitist campaigns. Who can blame people for being pissed off? And who can blame them, given the pathetic job the corporate media does, for being grossly misinformed?

What might bring at least some of them around is how obviously they’re being screwed by Trump and his Republican enablers. Their friends and family members will begin to die shortly, if they haven’t already, because of inadequate or nonexistent healthcare coverage. And things will only get worse — more and more people will die needlessly — as long as the Republicans are in charge and focused on ensuring profits for big pharma and the parasitic (apologies for the redundancy) healthcare insurance industries.

This is the most obvious point of attack. But the corporate Democrats (Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, et al.) won’t even consider attacking it. They’re beholden to their corporate funders, have betrayed the white (and black, and brown)  working class for decades, and think they can continue to get away with it, simply because Donald Trump is, very obviously, a cancerous polyp on the rectum of humanity.

Pelosi, Schumer, et al. have got to go.

Offer suffering people some real relief, and they might turn away from the vicious demagogue and hypocrite Donald Trump, and his enablers.

Donald Trump seems to be gambling that the real pieces of human shit in his base, who enjoy seeing the abuse of immigrant children, will be motivated to get out and vote for his Republican minions in the midterms.

We can only hope that the forces of human decency are stronger.

 

 

 


Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, will be released in a few days, so it’s time to remind people of why she would have been a lousy president — not as bad as Trump (a lobotomized Chihuahua could hardly be worse) — but lousy nonetheless.

The excerpts I’ve read have been notable for Clinton’s attempt to blame Bernie Sanders for her loss. Let’s be clear about one thing: Clinton lost because she was a wooden, status-quo, visionless candidate, who openly ridiculed Sanders’ calls for change, and whose only apparent reason for wanting to be president was personal ambition. She was a candidate who inspired no one beyond her identity-politics worshipers. (Her campaign slogan, “I’m with her,” exemplified this. What a call to arms.)

Seth Myers called her out on some of her b.s. tonight, but he didn’t go far enough: 1) Bernie Sanders didn’t force her to give three $5,000-a-minute speeches to Goldman Sachs; 2) Bernie Sanders didn’t force her to vote for G.W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq; 3) Bernie Sanders didn’t force her to oppose single-payer healthcare (favored by about 60% of the American public); 4) Bernie Sanders didn’t force her campaign and Super PAC to rely on big-money and corporate donors rather than small donors; 5) Bernie Sanders didn’t force her to take advantage of her allies’ at the DNC rigging of the primary system; 6) Bernie Sanders didn’t force her (as secretary of state) to engineer the disastrous intervention in Libya; 7) Bernie Sanders didn’t force her, during a debate, to brag about her friendship with war criminal and mass murderer Henry Kissinger. (Yes, a minor point, but one that’s particularly revealing.)

The list goes on; these are just some of the highlights.

To reiterate what I’ve written elsewhere, we’re in some ways fortunate that Trump won. If Clinton had won, we’d have had four years of gridlock, the corporate Democrats would have retained an iron grip on the Democratic Party, the Republicans would have blamed her for everything that went wrong while being held responsible for nothing, and they’d almost certainly have retained control of both houses of Congress in 2018 and won the presidency in 2020. And with a more competent, less overtly loathsome theofascist than Trump, who is stirring up massive popular resistance.

So, here’s a blast from the past from 2013. Enjoy!, if that’s the right word.

Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President

by Chaz Bufe, See Sharp Press publisher

There are plenty of reasons that no one should ever be president, but for now let’s focus on why Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be president.

She should never be president because of one single vote, the vote that authorized the illegal war of aggression against Iraq in 2003. No one in their right mind would accuse  Hillary Clinton of being stupid. It’s beyond dispute that she’s one of the sharpest political operatives in recent decades. So, it’s almost certain that she knew exactly what she was doing when she cast that vote. It’s almost certain that she knew it was wrong, that the “evidence” supporting the invasion had been cooked, and that the invasion would result in disaster–in untold death and misery. But she cast the vote anyway.

This is no small thing.

When the chickenhawks in the Bush Administration (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al.) began ginning up the case for invading Iraq, it was obvious from the start that they were doing exactly that–manufacturing evidence and support for an unnecessary, illegal war. The very concept that former U.S. ally Saddam Hussein was in league with Al Qaeda was mind boggling, absurd on the surface. Al Qaeda was and is a virulently fundamentalist religious organization. Saddam Hussein, for all his many and terrible sins, was a secularist. Al Qaeda considered Saddam a very bad Muslim.

Then there was the problem that the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, the head of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, was a Saudi, his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was an Egyptian, and that Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan. From all this, Bush and company concluded–more accurately, attempted to sell the idea–that Al Qaeda’s secularist enemy, Saddam Hussein, was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and, to make matters worse, had weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s).

And most Americans bought it. Not all of us, but most of us. How did Bush and company pull off this incredible con job? They grossly manipulated intelligence, ignored evidence that pointed away from their predetermined conclusions, relied on weak and even demonstrably false evidence supporting those conclusions, smeared those who pointed out false evidence (Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame), and even set up their own intelligence operation in the Pentagon to produce the “evidence” they wanted.

Even so, they’d never have gotten away with it if the press had done its job. With very few exceptions (notably some reporters at Knight-Ridder), the press rolled over and served as the propaganda arm of the Bush Administration. It did essentially no investigation of Bush et al.’s claims, let alone expose their falsity. Rather, the press served as Bush’s megaphone. In the run-up to the war, the networks (notably CNN) hired dozens of former high-ranking military officers as “expert” commentators, and fired anti-war reporters and pundits (among them, Phil Donohue, who had the top-rated show on MSNBC). So, not only were the TV news operations not doing their job of investigating and reporting, they were actively supporting the launch of an illegal war. A study of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS in January and February 2003 by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) found that only 17% of guests on those networks’ news programs were opposed to or skeptical of invasion, while 83% favored it.

As well, a New York Times “reporter,” Judith Miller (now, appropriately, employed by Fox “News”), served as the Bush Administration’s stenographer. She reported as fact what they told her about supposed Iraqi WMD’s, and the Times ran Miller’s reports as front-page “news.” In one particularly egregious example, Miller’s September 13, 2002 article in the Times, “White House Lists Iraq Steps To Build Banned Weapons,” repeated White House-supplied disinformation about the “threat” of Iraqi WMD’s — and the next day Dick Cheney cited Miller’s article as “evidence” of the WMD “threat,” using the Times, the national “paper of record,” to lend credibility to his and Bush’s self-manufactured “evidence.” Of course, Miller and the Times didn’t call Cheney on his dishonesty.

Almost all of this (sans some details of the media manipulation) was obvious at the time–at least to those who were paying attention. And rest assured, Hilary Clinton was paying attention. Yet she cast a vote in favor of death and destruction on an industrial scale. Approximately 4,500 American troops died needlessly in that war, with tens of thousands more wounded, many of them maimed for life. Iraqi casualties were far higher. All of the widely cited estimates of the number of deaths caused by the war exceed 100,000, with some being much higher. The Lancet estimate, for instance, is 601,000. Then there are the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi wounded and the estimated 1.5 to 4 million Iraqis who lost their homes and became refugees as a direct result of the war.

Hillary Clinton couldn’t have known how destructive the Iraq War would be. No one could have known that. But she had to have known that it would cause death and destruction, and that it was unjustified, simply wrong. At the time, public opinion was heavily in favor of invading Iraq, with most polls showing support by roughly a 2-to-1 margin. So, Hillary Clinton made a cold political calculation and voted in favor of the war. She certainly wasn’t stupid enough to believe Dick Cheney’s b.s. that U.S. troops would be “greeted as liberators,” but she bet that public opinion would remain in favor of the war and that voting for it would be to her political advantage. Never mind the unnecessary death and destruction.

That alone is enough to forever disqualify her from being president.


by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

I’ve been putting off writing this post for some time, but last week a grotesque piece of political performance art jolted me into putting fingers to keyboard: Hillary Clinton declared herself part of the “resistance,” and announced that she was creating a PAC (!) to fund “resistance” groups she approves of (and that, presumably, approve of her).

Why is this grotesque? She’s the one-woman embodiment of the status quo, not “the resistance.”

Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger

Hillary Clinton with war criminal Henry Kissinger

She voted in favor of Bush’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq. She was the architect of the disastrous intervention in Libya (with no plan about what would follow Qaddafi’s overthrow). During the presidential debates, she even bragged about being friends with mass murderer Henry Kissinger.

And she takes money — lots of it — from the banks and corporations, including “pay” for three speeches to Goldman Sachs between 2013 and 2015 at $225,000 each, and another eight speeches to banks in the same period garnering her another $1.8 million.

Bill Clinton is no saint in this regard, either. In February 2016 CNN documented Bill and Hillary Clinton’s receiving, to that point, $153,000,000 in speaking fees. (Yes, $153 million.)

And like those of her husband, her campaigns (and PACs and SuperPACs supporting her) have been funded predominantly by the corporations, banks, and those who own them. One strongly suspects that the ultra-rich who fund Clinton aren’t doing so out of the goodness of their hearts.

It would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to prove that her (and her husband’s) positions are payback for that funding, but consider this: During her career in politics, she, like her husband, never even proposed any measures that would threaten her backers financially.

To cite the most prominent example of that, she has consistently opposed a “Medicare for all” single-payer system (supported by approximately 60% of the public), and instead has opted for plans which leave our healthcare in the hands of the big pharma and insurance industry vampires, whose goal is to deliver the minimum amount of healthcare for the maximum amount of dollars.

Which brings us to her predecessor. Barack Obama ran on a platform of “hope and change.” And then he systematically betrayed those who voted for him. He continued, and in some ways intensified (drone assassinations of U.S. citizens), George W. Bush’s disastrous, interventionist, neo-con foreign policy. He kept the wars going, and kept up American support for authoritarian Islamist (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey) and military (Egypt) regimes.

He also promised the most open administration in history, and then delivered the most secretive, with mass surveillance of all of us, and the persecution of whistle blowers — at the same time that he completely let the banking criminals responsible for the financial crash completely off the hook.

Domestically, he proposed a stimulus big enough to keep the economy from collapsing (thus saving the banks) during the recession, but nowhere near big enough to put the 8.7 million who lost their jobs back to work. Nor did he do anything to help the 7 million who lost their homes.

What did he deliver? A singularly inadequate piece of healthcare legislation that protected big pharma and the insurance industry, and left tens of millions uninsured and tens of millions more underinsured. Obama also delivered, to some extent, on social issues that did not threaten his ultra-rich and corporate backers: gay rights and reproductive rights.

Richard Branson and Barack Obama on Branson's yacht

Richard Branson and Barack Obama on Branson’s yacht

Now that he’s left office, he’s been cashing in on his celebrity and connections — including being paid a $400,000 speaking fee by a Wall Street firm — and hanging out with his natural constituency, billionaires (Richard Branson and David Geffen).

Which brings us to the present, the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” is currently trying to wrest control of it from the corporate lackeys personified by Obama and the Clintons (and Diane Feinstein, John Podesta, Chuck Schumer, Donna Brazile, Nancy Pelosi, et al.).

The corporatists recently won the first major battle, electing Obama’s Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee over Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison.

(This on the heels of the DNC’s rigging the presidential primaries against Bernie Sanders and for Hillary Clinton — by among other things drastically restricting the number of debates and by scheduling them at times almost guaranteed to deliver low viewership, thus throwing away tens of millions of dollars of free air time.)

This does not portend well. It portends more of the same: no real attempt to address the gross economic inequality in this country, no attempt to institute universal healthcare, and instead a continued focus on social issues (that are no threat to the rich), all under the stirring battle cry, “We’re not as bad as the Republicans!”

It’s time for people to wake up and realize that the Democrats (at least the Clintons, Obama, and the rest of the corporatists) are not their friends.

Instead, they’re the “good cop” in America’s perennial good-cop / bad-cop political extortion routine.

The “good cop” is not your friend.

* * *

(Chaz Bufe is the author, co-author, or translator of 12 books. His latest work is The American Heretic’s Dictionary, which is the 21st century’s equivalent of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary.)


American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


Fidel Castro

 

by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

It’s time to speak ill of the dead.  It’s been time for nearly a century. Since 1918, the left in both the U.S. and Europe has had a dictator-worship problem. First it was Lenin; then it was (yes) Stalin; then Mao; most recently the dictator of choice has been Fidel Castro.

To illustrate the depth and nature of this problem, let me recount an incident from Cuba in the 1960s. In the 1970s, a maoist friend told me about his experiences there as part of a Venceremos Brigade a decade earlier. (Venceremos Brigades were bands of American leftists who traveled to Cuba to work in the cane fields in support of “the revolution.”) At one point, Fidel himself showed up where they were working in the fields. My friend told me that the reaction of his fellow brigadistas was like that of 14-year-olds at a Beatles concert.

Anarcho-Syndicalist ReviewSince then, the American left in large part has continued to idolize Castro and his Stalin-admirer cohort, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, overlooking their  crimes. We’ll get to those crimes shortly, but let’s first speak of Castro’s, and his “revolution’s,” achievements. During his half-century reign, Fidel Castro and the Cuban Communist Party achieved the following:

  • The literacy rate in Cuba in Cuba went from approximately 70% (figures vary) in 1959 to an estimated 96% today, thanks to the Cuban government’s literacy campaigns and universal education for those aged 6 to 16.
  • Cuba has universal, free medical care. One example of its success is that infant mortality in Cuba fell from 37.3 per 1,000 live births in 1959 to 4.3 per thousand today. (In contrast, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is 5.8 per 1,000 live births today.)
  • Higher education in Cuba is free for most Cubans.
  • There is remarkably little street crime in Cuba.
  • Every Cuban adult is guaranteed a low paying job, with pay averaging about $20 a month.
  • The Castro regime did show that a Latin American regime can defy the United States government (and the corporations it serves) and survive.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Well, consider this:

  • Freedom of speech does not exist in Cuba, nor do the other freedoms listed in the U.S. Bill of Rights. Since its inception, the “revolutionary” Castro regime has jailed opponents for exercising their freedoms of speech and assembly. Human Rights Watch notes: “Many of the abusive tactics developed during his [Fidel Castro’s] time in power – including surveillance, beatings, arbitrary detention, and public acts of repudiation – are still used by the Cuban government.”
  • All media outlets (newspapers, magazines, book publishers, radio stations, television stations) are controlled by the Castro regime, and access to the Internet is tightly restricted.
  • Cuba is a one-party state.
  • In its first four-plus decades in power (ending in 2003), the Castro regime executed hundreds if not thousands of its political opponents. Amnesty International estimates that that regime executed 216 political opponents between 1959 and 1987. Other estimates run up well into the thousands.
  • The Cuban government maintains a surveillance network in every neighborhood in Cuba, the so-called Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs — more accurately, Committees for the Defense of the Regime), which not only spy upon residents, but have considerable control over their lives. As an example, The CDRs can ban political dissidents from even applying to institutions of higher learning.
  • One of the first things the Castro regime did when it took power was to destroy independent unions, either jailing or driving into exile unionists who opposed its takeover. For over half a century, all unions in Cuba have been controlled by the government. (See Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement, by Frank Fernández. Full disclosure: I translated and edited the book.)
  • There is no workers’ control, no workplace democracy in Cuba. All workplaces are tightly controlled by government apparatchiks.
  • The Cuban government denies its citizens the right to travel, the right to emigrate. Since 1959, over 1.5 million Cubans have fled the country (current population 11 to 12 million). At least hundreds of thousands fled on rickety boats and rafts, and at absolute minimum thousands of men, women, and children died in the crossing. The actual figure is likely well up into the tens of thousands. No one really knows.

Since Castro’s death last week, the American left has, by and large, continued to sing Fidel Castro’s praises. To cite but one example, a few days ago Amy Goodman, on her generally excellent “Democracy Now” broadcast, devoted a full hour (bar the first few minutes devoted to news) to Castro. There were a few seconds (considerably under a minute) near the start devoted  to generalized mention of the repressive nature of the regime, but there was no mention whatsoever in the rest of the hour of any of the crimes listed above. It was largely a love letter to Castro.

One might mention that many antiauthoritarian Latin American leftists and anarchists deeply resent the largely uncritical support given Castro (and until his death Hugo Chávez in Venezuela) by the American left. They see it as a betrayal of principles — and themselves — and consider it utterly hypocritical, especially when coming from those who loudly proclaim their allegiance to human freedom, human rights — in the United States, but not Cuba (or Venezuela). They believe that the typical leftist refrain, “Well, we wouldn’t want that repressive system here, but the Cuban people are better off for it,” is grossly patronizing to those who are the victims of repression and those who struggle against it.

They have a point. If you believe in human freedom, in civil liberties, you believe in them everywhere, and you support all those struggling against repression. You’re either for freedom of speech or against it. You don’t make excuses for repressive regimes because you know “what’s best” for the people in those countries, because you know better than the Cubans (or Venezuelans) struggling against repression. If you make excuses for authoritarian regimes, if you don’t stand against repression everywhere, please don’t pretend that you have principles, please don’t pretend that you’re anything but a political apologist, a political hack.

If you think a one-party state, suppression of civil liberties, government control of the media, suppression of independent unions, replacement of capitalist bosses by “Communist” bosses, secret police, prisons, executions, a network of neighborhood informers, militarism, and a personality cult are a good tradeoff for the Cuban people in exchange for free health care, free higher education, and a guaranteed low-paying job, by all means support the Cuban dictatorship, and continue to sing Fidel Castro’s praises.