Sunday 17 January 2010


I’m lucky; I have my own personal Alistair Cooke.

My good mate Danny just sent me an email with his usual collection of news stories from the other side of the Atlantic. Always interesting and at the same time amusing, Danny manages to mix serious stuff with trivia. I had a good laugh over the irony that George Bush, who had made such a complete mess of organising the disaster relief in New Orleans after the Katrina Hurricane, had been jointly appointed with Bill Clinton to oversee the co-ordination of American aid to Haiti. Of course the post may be largely 'for show', with Secretary Clinton having already visited Port au Prince, but Presidents Clinton and Bush with their huge influence certainly show the world, and Haiti, that America is involved at the very highest levels, and who knows how many of the "haves and the have mores" will part with money for President DubYa!

A much more worrying issue followed. Here it is as Danny sent it.....

“....An unbelievable story is unfolding in Massachusetts. Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat is being contested there in a by-election next Tuesday. And the polls now say it's a toss-up. The Republicans may actually get it.

BEYOND BELIEF....the Kennedy seat IN MASSACHUSETTS....going REPUBLICAN???!!!!

And if it goes Republican, the Democrats will only have 59 seats in the Senate. This would almost surely kill the health bill when it comes back out of the conference committee for final vote of the two houses of Congress. The vote will be 41-59 in the Senate and a Republican filibuster will kill it. And imagine what this would mean for any future Obama administration bills i
n the Senate. So all eyes are on Massachusetts this coming Tuesday....”

It is hard to believe that after all the work that President Obama and the Administration leaders in the House and the Senate have put into this bill, which would extend health care to the working poor in the world’s richest country, that it could all be lost because of the death of one of its greatest proponents.


  1. Actually the problem is that a lot of Americans see it as a colossal waste of money, expensive, ill thought out and being rammed down the throats of the taxpayers by an increasingly unpopular administration.
    It's not that they don't want universal healthcare, it's more that they don't want this one.

  2. Well, they have been given a choice about it this time QM. Unlike Clinton, Obama did not produce his own bill; he allowed both houses to come up with their versions and then to get together and come up with a compromise.

    I'm not a supporter of big government, and I believe the state's involvement in my life should be as small as possible, but, at the moment everyone is paying for healthcare through higher prices of products to cover the health insurance employment packages that companies have to provide.

    The poor workers are left totally unprotected. People live in pain because they can’t afford to go to the dentist, the doctor or ER. People with lower level jobs find that if they have something long term, their insurance won’t be renewed, and always insurance companies are trying to find a way out of paying.

    If I were American I would be dead now, for want of money to provide for my healthcare over the last year.

    Of course maybe that’s the way that some Americans want it. It is probably the way the bulk of the rich want it.

  3. I don't think it is the bulk of the rich, they certainly don't make up the majority of the electorate in Massachusetts. No, the issue is with the working class who do pay their own insurance benefits seeing said benefits going through the roof to pay for someone who has never and will never contribute.
    It's a bit like buying a nice car and then finding out you're expected to buy your workshy neighbours car as well.

  4. But it's not the workshy who don't get it at the moment QM. As I understand it, if you are on welfare you qualify for Medicaid which is state care. It's probably not very good, and you'd probably better hope you don't get anything BAD, but you do have cover.

    The same with old people who are covered by the state through Medicare.

    The people who are not covered are the people who work for small companies who simply can't afford a medical coverage plan. Small café workers, or pumping gas, washing cars, whatever.

    You’re already supporting the old and the workshy (if there is such a thing in America); the duggies and drinkers. .....

    I think!!!!!

    Danny, or another American reader may come along now and put me right on that.... Maybe I’m blethering!!!

  5. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksJanuary 18, 2010 1:19 am

    Tris: You have it spot on about the health care bill. From my frankly partisan American perspective, I am utterly sick of hearing that we can't afford it. We can give the Defense Department a blank check to fight Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can't afford to provide basic health care for tens of millions of Americans.

    Now the Republicans tell us that they actually want to provide some sort of health care plan, but that we need to take more time to consider it. Obama is moving too quickly we are told. Are they serious? What kind of fools do they take us for? Where was that Republican health care plan when they controlled the White House and BOTH houses of Congress during four years of the Bush administration. Or during all the other periods of Republican control going back to Richard Nixon in the 1960's. Or for that matter, back to Eisenhower in the 1950's. Harry Truman (a Democrat) raised the issue in the late 1940's. And Lyndon Johnson certainly knew the need when he passed Medicare in the 1960's. How much time do the Republicans need to present and advance their plan? It's been 60 years since Harry Truman, 45 years since Lyndon Johnson, and 9 years since Bush took office. And the Republicans raised not a finger to address the issue in all that time.

    The Republicans will quite simply SAY anything, DO anything to stop the heath care bill.....ANY health care bill. They were against Social Security in the 1930's, and Medicare in the 1960's. And they are against comprehensive health care for Americans now. It really has nothing to do with the cost.....or how the bill was written......or how quickly it is being advanced. They are simply against it. They will always be against it. And they will do or say anything it takes to stop it.

  6. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksJanuary 18, 2010 2:13 am

    And it certainly is as you describe it Tris. Those who are utterly destitute have Medicaid. It's not great, but it's very basic health care. Those over 65 have Medicare, a government run insurance system. The crisis in health care is a crisis of the working poor. They would love to have medical insurance, but they can't afford the premiums.

    And it's also a crisis of the well paid middle class. Employers generally provide health insurance at affordable rates to their employees under group plans. Employers often pay some portion of the premiums as an employment benefit to their workers. But when a comfortable middle class worker loses his job in an economic downturn, he generally loses that employer provided health care. (A continuance period called COBRA may apply for a period of time.) But when coverage runs out, then just one major health problem can mean bankruptcy.

    The major features of the health care plan still being crafted in conference committee will make insurance coverage available to Americans at affordable rates. And no one can be refused coverage due to pre-existing conditions. For the middle class, it will mean that a period of unemployment will not constitute a health care crisis.

    For the working poor, there will be subsidies or tax breaks to help them pay their insurance premiums. And as a well compensated worker and taxpayer, if I need to help pay the insurance premiums of less fortunate Americans through such a program, then so be it.

  7. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksJanuary 18, 2010 2:54 am

    One more comment and I'll shut up (for now).

    Your last point is central to the issue Tris. It is the so-called work-shy and others who do not have medical insurance for one reason or another who drive up medical costs. They show up at hospital emergency rooms demanding treatment that they can't pay for. This cost is then passed along to those who CAN pay and DO have insurance.....causing insurance premiums to skyrocket. This is precisely a fault of the PRESENT system, not of the Obama health plan. In fact, this is one of the principal problems that the Obama plan will address. It will require EVERYONE to buy insurance (some of which for the poor will be cost subsidized). The Obama plan will, in fact, FIX the problem of the freeloaders who are driving up health care costs for the rest of us.

  8. It sounds almost perfect when so excellently explained. But that does not explain why the voters in Massachusetts are likely to go out and vote Republican despite the wishes of their recently deceased Senator who carries a name that is tantamount to royal in the US. That would be like the people of Kensington and Chelsea voting Labour on mass. That did not even happen when the Tories imploded in 1997, never mind one year into the administration of a very charismatic and up till now popular leader.

  9. Danny...

    Thanks for the clarifications.

    It was pretty much my understanding that the two different versions of the Healthcare legislation that the House and the Senate were now trying to piece together solved more problems than they created, but I’m glad to have confirmation.

    The National Health Service of Scotland leaves a great deal to be desired, but for all of the problems (most of which could be overcome by sensible management... like that’s going to happen and some soap and water), but I would be terrified to live in a country where I could work at 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet and yet be unable to afford to have my teeth filled......

  10. Good question Munguin:

    I don’t know the answer, but I do know that Obama, having failed to live up to the status wished upon him by the world of superstar sportsman, pop idol, bringer of life and all manner of other things, is mighty unpopular right now. It’s mainly because of the recession, which had nothing to do with him, and out of which America has already climbed, (but.... it takes a long time for this to filter down to the ordinary people). His popularity figures are low.

    He still has troops dying; Guantanamo is still open; unemployment is over 10%... and worst of all, it appears that Mr Obama can’t walk on water after all.... I’d make a guess that Massachusetts was a state that wanted Hillary Clinton... but maybe that’s wrong.

    You’re right though The People’s Republic of Massachusetts voting Republican is a shocker by anyone’s standards. Maybe inner Glasgow will vote Tory in May!

  11. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksJanuary 18, 2010 1:41 pm

    Munguin...You have asked the question that the Democratic establishment would love to know the answer to. And they are surely terrified about what this potential swing in the Massachusetts Senate race will mean to the off-year general election next November (to elect the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate). One thing is certain, people vote their pocketbook. And an economic downturn is absolutely lethal for the incumbent party. Never mind that it started during the Bush administration, ten percent unemployment is now an Obama problem. The electorate is angry, and they are in a mood to throw the incumbents out.

    Another thing is that "all politics are local." There is some feeling that the Democrats took the Massachusetts Senate seat for granted and that Martha Coakley ran a very poor campaign. It should also be noted that while Massachusetts has been reliably Democratic at the federal level for years, it's likely that the majority of voters there now self-identify themselves as "independent." And Republicans can do very well at the level of the state offices. This is the state that elected Mitt Romney (Republican-conservative Mormon) to one term as Governor. (He did not seek reelection, as he made his Presidential run.) And in fact Republicans held the Governorship of Massachusetts for sixteen straight years, from 1991 to 2007.

    It should also be pointed out that American voters are decidedly non-ideological in their political orientation. (And can even be very fickle in their party identification.) The people who voted for FDR and LBJ in landslides, a few years later voted for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan in historic landslides. Later they voted for Clinton, then Bush II, then Obama. Where's the political sense in all that? Except of course that the Presidency is all about personality, and, at that level, the voters get tired of a face and a party and want a change. On the level of the Congressional seats, it generally becomes more politically predictable over the long term. There are House districts that have kept the same party identification since the 19th century. That's why a shift in the party control of Congress is a much bigger "political" story than a presidential victory. So this possible shift of a Senate seat in Massachusetts is a VERY BIG political story. If it happens, the Democrats will be utterly terrified about what it means for the Congressional elections in November. And of course, if it means that they lose the health bill in Congress, it will be a loss beyond measure. Furthermore, the fact that it had been Teddy Kennedy's seat will be a deeply bitter irony.

  12. It looks like the voters of Massachusetts have realised that Obama isn't 'the one'.
    He's still increasing involvement in Afghanistan and still has all the Goldman Sachs bankers advising him to print more money. Despite the fact that the dollar will be worthless by this time next year.
    The only consolation is that the BBC luvvies will be heartbroken. Can't wait to see their gushing tribute to Obama this week on tv.
    Oh and I wonder if Teddy has apologised to Mary Jo yet or the thousands of victims of IRA murders.

  13. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksJanuary 18, 2010 2:35 pm

    Tris....Yes, Hillary Clinton smothered Obama in the Massachusetts presidential primary, 56% to 40%. The old eastern Democratic party establishment rules in Massachusetts.

    I can't say anything about Obama's current predicament that you did not say better. Even the bit about not being able to walk on water. The joke is that when he took office, the voters thought that he walked on water. Now the story is simply that he can't swim.

    Everyone knew that the wreckage of the Bush years would be a Herculean task to make right. Maybe the Democrats thought (or wished) that Obama would be given some time.....maybe even some Republican good will. Now it's twelve months later and people are angry that it's not all been fixed.

    If the result is that the voters take it out on the Democrats next November, it's hard to see how he can ever get much of a legislative program through Congress (especially the Senate.)

    Maybe he should have tackled "safer" issues and ditched the controversial health care fight. He spent a lot of political capital there. But he probably knew that he had a rare generational opportunity to pass health reform, and decided to go ahead with it. LBJ knew (and said) that his civil rights legislation would destroy the Democratic party in his native South. He was absolutely right about that. The Democratic "solid South" became today's Republican solid South.

    One might have hoped for some good will from Republicans to help solve the nation's problems. HA! Politics is not for the faint of heart. When Bush showed his first sign of political weakness, the Democrats attacked with a vengeance. That's the way the system works. The economic crisis made the personally popular Obama politically weak from the start. And the Republicans went on the attack. There was already political blood in the water.

  14. Anon: He was never going to be ‘’the one’’ that he was built up to be... but really he never said he was "the one", nor really did his people. I think that there was a desperation to have anyone but Bush, and it was a bit like the Tony Blair story: he was young, good looking and full of hope and energy. He looked like ‘’the one’’ next to the old, tired and tarnished administration full of hate figures like the odious VP.

    If I could just get a signal from the BBC I’d let you know how they report Obama, but, although they happily take my money, they seem incapable of providing any kind of service. Unfortunately it seems that it's pretty one sided deal with them. I can't have them put in prison for taking my money but failing to provide a service.

  15. Danny:

    Maybe Obama spent his political capital on the Health Care Bill because he actually believed in it.... Nah, silly me, he’s a politician, he could only possibly believe in himself and his own self importance, couldn’t he?

    Sometimes you do with that parties could pull togetehr to solve problems instead of making political capital out of everything.

    Here, of course many of them are too busy just trying to make capital as in loads of cash!!!

  16. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksJanuary 18, 2010 4:55 pm

    Tris....Yep, we can hope that occasionally politicians actually become statemen and do what is right.....because it is right. Issues like health care reform seem to me to represent the sort of thing that might invite such an attitude. (Or the civil rights legislation in the case of Lyndon Johnson.)

  17. Danny:

    Yes, that's true. I can't think of one thing that has been done here that was really brave or selfless. Maybe before my time. I suspect that the founding of the National Health Service was one of these things.

    I'm sure that there were many who fought hard against it, and certainly the government that did it only lasted for one term before it was thrown out. That was probably statesmanship.

    Since then I doubt there's been much of that. They have either been concentrating on leaving a legacy, or getting their hands on as much of our cash as they can.

    Looking back on our Prime Ministers, what do we remember them for?

    Blair: War criminal and Bush’s puppet; Major: Dull and ineffectual, and having an affair with a seriously ugly female with the most irritating voice ever, after Thatcher; Mrs Thatcher: ruining Scotland, closing manufacturing, encouraging greed, being Regan’s puppet, and having the world’s most irritating voice.

    I’m sure many readers could go back to the ones before Thatcher, but I doubt they would much they would find one tiny piece of statesmanship.

  18. "I’m sure many readers could go back to the ones before Thatcher, but I doubt they would much they would find one tiny piece of statesmanship."

    MacMillan and Heath! ;P

  19. LOL Dean... I pretty much anticipated that...

    Seriously, in what way did either of them display real statesmanship, or vision?

    I know MacMillan is your hero, but he risked so much on forcing the British Nuclear Industry to do things it was ill prepared and underfunded to do in order to keep up with the Americans.

    I really don't know what Mr Heath did. I mean in later years he was wonderful, inspirational really in some ways. He spoke the truth, and he was a constant pain for Mrs Thatcher and her odious lieutenants (which is always a pleasure) but was he really a statesman?

  20. "Seriously, in what way did either of them display real statesmanship, or vision?"

    Harold MacMillan demonstrated amazing statesmanship during his years. Not least when he took a Tory Party that was tired after Suez and a decade in power and actiually won and INCREASED the majority in 1959. But this is not why he is a statesman, it merely indicates that the public responded to his policies of support for a mixed economic strategy, for his vast investment in social housing [much needed then as now], and his attempts to take Britain into the European community where to be strongly commended. But most importantly his foreign policy showed his strong belief in decolonisation, a sound and ethical policy for the UK to engage in [despite again wailings from some Tories of the period].

    But finally, more than his european agenda, or his housing stock expansion, or even his decolonisation agenda, it was the amazing increase in the average standard of living that must earn him the right to be considered a statesman, a great leader and a true reformer- taking on any interest group that opposed sound and pragmatic government.


    His foriegn policy between 1970-1974 was strongly to be commended. When I replay on YouTube a copy of his speech about our common European destiny, and our obligation to tare ourselves away from failed imperial notions and the US hip he brings tears to my eyes.

    Heath maintained MacMillans committment to europe, and actually succeeded. Indeed Heath also maintained social housing stock [unlike a certain lady], and he also attempted to fight against militant rightists and leftists. But let us not forget that Heath was a strong supporter of devolution for Scotland in the late 1970s, and this is another BIG bonus in his box.

    So there, a brief and excited explanation...there are soo many reasons so there are just a couple!

  21. I'd say that a statesman has the ability, the drive and the inclination to lead where the country needs to go... not for popularity, not for his gain, in any way, but for the genuine good of the country. He (or she) is a genuine "leader", as in one who leads.

    I have to admit that it was probably statesmanship to give up colonies, a source of income and natural superiority, which the people probably wanted to keep, and to join with Europe, which to the average Englishman would be anathema. I’ve never met a more Xenophobic lot in my life.

  22. You might say that.......:)