Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for January 1st, 2007

2007: battling over words and lives

Posted by metaphorical on 1 January 2007

The U.S. health care system is a scandal and a disgrace. But maybe, just maybe, 2007 will be the year we start the move toward universal coverage.

Americans spend more on health care per person than anyone else almost twice as much as the French, whose medical care is among the best in the world. Yet we have the highest infant mortality and close to the lowest life expectancy of any wealthy nation.

Paul Krugman chose health care for his first op-ed piece of 2007. What’s nice about Krugman is his follow-the-money attitude. And if people debate whether Iraq is all about oil, there’s no debating that the health care debate is all about the money—HMO money, doctor money, rich people’s tax money.

Take outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a doctor and a member of the family that founded Columbia/HCA. In its 29 November “Farewell to Senator Bill Frist,” The Nation had this to say:

The wealthy doctor ran for the Senate in 1994 with a simple mission: to prevent health care reforms that might pose a threat to his family’s stake in Columbia/HCA, the nation’s leading owner of hospitals. There was never going to be anything honorable about his service, but nothing all that embarrassing in a Washington that welcomes self-serving senators with open arms.

By blocking needed health care reforms, pushing for tort reforms that would limit malpractice payouts and supporting moves to privatize Medicare, Frist pumped up his family’s fortunes at the expense of Americans who lacked access to health care. As Mother Jones explained, “Some companies hire lobbyists to work Congress. Some have their executives lobby directly. But Tennessee’s Frist family, the founders of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., the nation’s largest hospital conglomerate, has taken it a step further: They sent an heir to the Senate. And there, with disturbingly little controversy, Republican Sen. Bill Frist has co-sponsored bills that may allow his family’s company to profit from the ongoing privatization of Medicare.”

 The Frists fared well during the senator’s two terms. An $800-million stake in HCA that his father and brother had at the time Frist was elected in 1994 shot up in value over the decade that followed. Frist’s brother, Thomas, rose steadily on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s richest people in recent years. In 2003, Forbes estimated that Thomas Frist Jr. was worth $1.5 billion. According to Forbes: “source: health care.”

Here are some key facts (ones John Edwards points out on his campaign blog):

  • Today, health care is tied to employment, but of the 47 million uninsured people, most of them work.
  • Another 75 million are considered underinsured, all of whom work.
  • Health and medical financial burdens are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S.
  • Most U.S. citizens do not enjoy the free choice of a physician, free choice of hospitals, or the free choice of participating in preventive health care.

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Posted in language, Orwell, politics | 4 Comments »

Life in the Bell jar

Posted by metaphorical on 1 January 2007

Welcome to 2007, the seventh year of the Bush Justice Department and the Bush FCC.

AT&T, with its successive purchases of the old AT&T long distance company and now BellSouth, is apparently beyond the reach of government.

Gordon Cook is reporting that the head of the FCC has repudiated even the limited commitment that AT&T made to net neutrality, saying it won’t be enforced by the commission.

AT&T is by far the biggest telephone company in the U.S. It owns the largest cellular network—all of it, whereas the #2 next competitor, Verizon, only owns 55 percent of its network. AT&T has now reassembled well over half of the old AT&T phone monopoly.

AT&T—in concert with its nominal competitor, Verizon—is getting states to end their municipalities’ right to franchise non-broadcast video services, and they’re getting states and municipalities to restrain themselves from instituting publicly-owned Wi-Fi networks.

In short, AT&T is now big enough to do whatever it wants.

Posted in politics, technology | 1 Comment »