Open Letter to Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Dear Mrs. Clinton:

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Debbie Wasserman Schultz has just resigned from her post. It was a long time coming. She should have been gone over a year ago. We all knew what she was up to but it took an email leak to confirm without a doubt what Bernie Sanders supporters already knew and that he was subjected to a sustained effort of sabotage by the DNC. This was a sabotage of a special kind, it wasn’t just voter suppression, ballot manipulation by way of closed primaries but the good old dog whistling antisemitism – questioning if Sanders “believes in God”. For your own sakes, I hope that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, yourself and Sen. Tim Kaine show up at your respective places of worship every week, because anything short of that, you are the worst kind of hypocrites. You are no different than those Bible beating, gun toting people condemning everyone who don’t share their beliefs kind of people. I won’t even call them Christians because they defile what it means to be Christian.

Since Wasserman Schultz’s dismissal (resignation – whatever you want to call it, the truth doesn’t really matter here) from her post at the DNC, you’ve hired her to be part of your campaign. You must possess some kind of superhuman arrogance or just plain tone deaf. I get that you owe her a great debt. She’s shilled extra hard for you, to defend your indefensible positions and tell everyone until she is blue in the face on why you are the best person to be our next president.

Poll after poll shows that young people don’t trust you, they don’t like you, that you have a tenuous relationship with the truth. You are a warmonger with a trigger happy finger, especially with those drones. You destabilized regions to help your rich Arab friends. You especially have trouble with young women, women who really should be looking up to you, who should want to be like you, except they want nothing to do with you. And in the face of all this, you hire your clone-shill Debbie Wasserman Schultz to help run your campaign, in the hopes of getting you elected as our first woman president.

I am one of those ‘youngish’ woman who don’t like you, who wants nothing to do with you. To put it plainly and perhaps it’s a little crass, you are like that insufferable mother we can’t wait to get away from. That lying, emotionally manipulative mother who who whips out the martyr card when the occasion suits. Any disagreement we have with you automatically equals ungratefulness and ‘you have no idea what I went through so you can have all of this!’You are like the mother that we desperately want to love and admire but in the end must walk away from to save our sanity.

The thing is I used to like you, a lot. I looked up to you. You were a vast improvement from Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush in the First Lady department. When you stayed with that cheating husband of yours and was criticized for it (you were painted as either a pathetic woman desperate to hang on to a man or a Lady Macbeth using your husband for your own political gain), I defended you and to this day, woman to woman, I respect your decision. It was no one’s business how you handle your private affairs. Whether you stayed with your husband or not didn’t make you any less of a woman or feminist and for what it’s worth, I still hold that view today. How we choose to handle our private lives is no one’s business.

The reason I cannot support you is your constant hypocrisy between your personal conduct and what you tell the public. You say you fight for women and children, but you were on the board of Walmart, one of the most anti-women and children organizations there is. They are anti-Union (which would go far to help working women), have a history of promoting men over women for important management positions, they punish pregnant women, pay wages so low that one-third of Walmart employees must access some type public assistance to survive. One of Walmart’s heirs, Alice Walton donated over $300,000 to your campaign, despite your protestations that you’ve cut ties with Walmart.

Your ties to Wall Street – what sage advice can you impart on Wall Street bankers that they feel compelled to pay you almost $300,000 for a thirty minute speech. And when it was requested that you release your speech transcripts you gave a slick Willy answer and up until today, no transcripts are forthcoming. They won’t be forthcoming now that you have the nomination. Those speech fees are political bribes, to make sure you don’t bring them ‘to heel’ when you become president. It was your husband who repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which gave way to the rampant market speculation that brought down the economy in in 2008 – and along with it, millions of American lives were ruined and have yet to recover from (while your daughter Chelsea lives in a $10 million dollar penthouse in Manhattan – and she’s never had a real job in her life before, working for your ‘foundation’ doesn’t count, you gave her the job – and that special correspondent job at MSNBC – give me a break).

The punitive welfare reform and criminal justice reforms of your husband, which you wholly supported has wreaked havoc the lives of millions of people, and the most severely impacted are minority women and children. Oh the irony when the press dubbed your husband as the ‘first black president of the United States’ and by that same logic, you are about to become the first ‘black woman president of America’. The destruction he wrought to black lives is still unfolding, fifteen years after he’s left office. Many would say it’s not fair to hold you accountable for the policies of your husband and normally I’d agree, but you put yourself out there as a different kind of First Lady (not the cookie baking kind), you publicly supported the policies of your husband and remember that little comment about bringing child criminals, super predators to heel? Also, you also have significant donations from the private prison lobby, which is in their best interest to keep incarceration rates high so that they can ‘profit’ off of the suffering of other people.

Even the single-payer health plan, which was your original platform when you were First Lady. This was YOUR platform, it didn’t get past committee but it was so close, so when Bernie Sanders advocated Medicare for all, you should be jumping on board, after all this was your idea, but instead you denounced Sanders plan as not being practical without really saying why it’s not practical. You said that to expand Medicare would cause many to lose their current plans (or you told Chelsea to tell people that rather). In your debates you said that Obamacare is adequate, no it’s not, Obamacare is riddled with problems. Our coverage rate is 90% and you’ll ‘work on the 10%’ who are not covered. Newsflash: Obamacare is not a good plan, it solved some problems, but created many more, but most importantly, while it expanded coverage rate, it didn’t expand actual insurance coverage,  nor did it bring down the cost of premiums significantly. Deductibles are still high, we are still paying a lot for monthly premiums, and there are problems with doctors accepting health plans for those who are on state and federal exchanges. Obamacare never solved the problem of insurance companies making profit off of the illness of others. Until you do something about that, we will still have the same problems. The best way to take care of that is to expand Medicare to include everyone, not just those over 65. But will you do it? No, of course not.The insurance companies paid you off too.

Then there’s your ‘foundation’ which is funded in large part by the Saudi Royal family. The most rotten, corrupt and abusive family in the world is your ‘friend’ and ‘ally’. Their money reeks and not just of oil. Saudi women are some of the most oppressed in the world, they can’t even drive, they cannot go anywhere without the consent or accompaniment of another male relative or husband. Their human rights record is appalling, in the year 2016, they’ve hit a new ‘record’ and just executed their 100th prisoner, by the medieval barbaric method of beheading with a sword. Where is your sense of feminist or human rights outrage here? This is a country that still practices female genital mutilation, forced marriages, child marriages, honor killings and they practice and preach the most violent form of Islam which advocate murder of all non-Sunni Muslims and these people are your friends and allies? And you consider them appropriate allies of the United States? To be clear, the United States is not some ‘land of the free and home of the brave’ either, we have our own forces of oppression and our methods of oppression are more insidious (mass digital surveillance, curtailing of free speech and expression) but compared to that of Saudi Arabia, our lot is much better. You look the other way while Saudi Arabia and their Gulf allies wreak havoc in the Middle East. They’ve been bombing Yemen for over one year, Yemeni people are being starved to death, the humanitarian situation is one of the worse that we’ve ever seen – even when compared with Syria and we don’t hear about it on CNN. One of the worst human catastrophes is going on right now and we are deliberately being kept in the dark about it.

You destabilized Syria to help Israel, to break up the alliance of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria because these three alliances are against the Israeli and Western hegemony in the region. You deposed Qaddafi and his cache of chemical weapons and arms made its way to Syria, in the hands of ‘moderate’ rebels who just beheaded a Palestinian child, which the State Department calls a ‘mistake’ and money and weapons should not cease to go to these rebels as a result of this ‘mistake’. The French and US air forces just killed over 100 civilians in Manjibi in Aleppo in retaliation to the Nice attacks and again that was another ‘mistake’, no apologies, nothing. The ‘Free Syrian Army’ is a farce, the ‘moderate pro-Western opposition’ is a farce. The moderate opposition talk of slaughtering Alawites and Shias (their own fellow Muslims) and stealing their possessions because they don’t subscribe to the Salafist strain of poisonous Islam. If this is acceptable to you, then you are a war criminal. No, correction, you already are a war criminal. Your ‘Yes’ vote to invade Iraq was not a lapse in judgement as you and your ‘surrogates’ constantly say. And you accuse of anyone continuing to bring this up as being childish and stuck in early 2000s. The ‘Yes’ vote is the first crack in your mask of your true views on foreign policy, which is more hawkish than those of Richard Nixon. Again not surprising, since you consider Henry Kissinger a mentor and someone to be admired – a man responsible for many genocides in South East Asia. And another friend of yours, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it was acceptable to have over 250,000 Iraqi children die as a result of sanctions meant for Saddam Hussein. Anyone who subscribes to and carries out collective punishment is a genocidal maniac. Yes, this was so 1990s, but I don’t care, I won’t forget it and I will bring it up over and over again. I bring it up as a tribute to the sorrow and sadness of the mothers who lost those 250,000 children; since no one in America bothered to mourned their deaths or even acknowledged the sadness of their families – they are just numbers on a page, I will. Then you sanctioned the total destruction of the Iraqi state whereby millions of civilians perished and now ISIS has stepped in the vacuum. All of this is just another ‘mistake’. Millions of lives lost, thousands of American soldiers died, many thousands more are injured or are suffering with permanent injuries and mental conditions – all for a ‘mistake’.

You call yourself a feminist but you are just a corporate imperialist feminist. Brown and black women overseas and in Central America are not part of your umbrella of feminist activism. You only care about women who look and sound like you, elite, upper class, identitarian neoliberal – even working class American women are excluded from your activism and your doling out of favors because they are ‘white’ and therefore benefit from white privilege – a social construct that is used to discuss racism and anti-black bias in America, which your supporters took and applied it to their own notion of what white privilege is, which is anyone who is white, without considering other factors, is by default privileged and therefore do not need to be under your umbrella of activism.

Your candidacy is a platform for the elites which you approve of, people who agree with you and who subscribe to your worldview, which in this present day is shrinking by the minute. You are not despised because you are a woman who dared to be ambitious – that is to be admired. You are not despised because you are a wife and mother who dared to have dreams and ambitions outside of your home, you are despised because you are corrupt and dishonest. You positions are hypocritical. You call yourself a feminist, but you helped destroy lives of women in this country and abroad. You claim to be anti-racist, but policies you supported created mass incarceration of Black and Latinos. You gave police departments unprecedented powers to incarcerate, harass, kill and maim Black people and other minorities.

So, instead of getting back in the good graces of the younger voters, you double down on your neoliberal agenda. Instead of staying clear and far away from the likes of Wasserman Schultz you hire her as your campaign advisor. To appease the Latino and minority voters, instead of a choosing a well qualified Latino or Black running mate, you choose another white neoliberal Tim Kaine – who is Catholic and speaks Spanish because he did charity work in Honduras. And he could technically be considered Latino because he attends church with a lot of Latinos? The same way your husband was the country’s first black president? Do you take Latinos for fools? Do you take all of us for fools? We are just going to fall in line and vote for you because you think it’s your turn at the presidency and because ‘you’ve paid your dues’? We all lined up at the polls for Obama because we believed Obama was going to bring a new era of progressiveness to American politics (another total failure on that front but that’s a whole other post). If you are successful in your endeavor at the top job of the land – the era of the Clinton Democrat will be born, and it’s going to have the same meaning and connotation as the Goldwater Republican – a phenomenon never allowed to be repeated again.

Sincerely,

The Anti-Hillary Young-ish Voter

 

Health Insurance: Right or Privilege?

After speaking to many people on the complicated and aggravating but necessary issue of having adequate health insurance and after reading many articles, op-eds, ‘policy’ papers even small portions of the Affordable Care Act – where one stands on the issue of this debate really depends on if they feel that the access to good healthcare is a right or a privilege. It’s not even about whether one is Republicans or Democrat, liberal or conservative, neoconservative or neoliberal; it’s about whether you think it is morally acceptable for the poor and those who live in isolated locations to be cut off from good healthcare access and those that can afford it have the access to the best healthcare available. It is whether you believe having free and unrestricted access to healthcare is a fundamental inalienable right like the right to bear arms (the right to free speech and religion have been curtailed depending who is speaking, what the subject is about and which religion is being practiced), which is about the only inalienable right left where the right is conferred upon anyone regardless if they deserve it or is responsible enough to own guns or not.

Those on the right already made their positions clear on this topic. Any half-baked, loony white supremacist has the right to purchase and own guns because to take away his right to own guns is the same as taking away a responsible person’s right to own guns. But when it comes to healthcare, only those that deserve it, have paid their dues, has paid enough taxes, who are part of the political elite and ruling class plus a few others has a right to good healthcare. Everyone else, the 47% are just asking for gifts and handouts and ‘those people’ daring to ask more than what they deserve based on where they fall in the complicated intersectionality of race, social class, income level are just entitled freeloaders who want something for nothing. But this scorn doesn’t extend to the Medicare recipients, who are people aged 65 and older because they are an important voting bloc and they’ve deemed to have ‘paid their dues’. Their position is very clear, very decisive and there’s a pretty firm line in the sand.

Democrats, liberals and neoliberals have a more wishy-washy take. Neoliberals in particular favor the ‘means test’ nonsense. Everything is means tested – even the free lunch program in public schools where the food is crap, cheap because it’s sodium laden and processed has to be means tested within hundreds of dollars in deviation of parents’ income. If America like Europe charges people to use the public bathrooms, it’d be means tested. Really poor people use it for free, and then it would breakdown to whether it’d be a nickel, dime or quarter depending on income level. And those with ‘male cis-straight white privilege’ will be charged one full dollar for taking a leak in a public bathroom. This kind of tedious, mind numbing, time consuming bureaucratic bullshit is a favorite for the neolibs who are obsessed with means testing everything. It’s like a compulsion they can’t help. The DSM needs to include this in their list of psychological disorders.

They’ve extended this ‘means testing’ to everything. Republicans demand cuts to social security and Medicare or else they’ll shut down the government, the Democrat’s response? Instead of cutting across the board let’s ‘means test’ it and adjust accordingly, it’s better than forcing cuts on everyone. Bernie Sanders proposes free college tuition for all state colleges and universities, Hillary Clinton just came out with her own cheater version, and again, it’s means tested. The Affordable Care act, instead of creating a single-payer plan or just expanding Medicare to include everyone, not just those over 65, and the Democratic president and Congress, can for once, stand up for the American people and stick it to the for-profit insurance companies and big pharma companies, what did they do? It’s another, means tested, complicated, tedious plan which after the final analysis didn’t really improve coverage or cost.

That the Democrats have such trouble saying to neoliberals and Republicans ‘No, we are not going to cut social security, Medicare or welfare, we can afford this if we can afford 2 illegitimate wars’ proves they don’t really care about their voters or their base, who have for over 30 years demanded real reform to healthcare where good health coverage is accessible to all with no caveats, no means testing, no filling out tons of complicated forms, you don’t need a ‘customer service agent’ on the phone to assist in signing up for a simple dental or health insurance plan, nothing. You are born, you are assigned a social security number and viola you have health care, just like when people turn 65, they fill out a simple form and within a month their Medicare is sorted. Social security benefits should not be cut, they should be increased – tied to inflation, Medicare should include more coverage not less and it should be expanded to cover everyone (even trailer trash and those people in the inner cities that police love to shoot). Big pharma and for-profit insurance companies should not get away with making money off of the illnesses and deaths of others. They should be made accountable for their expenditures if they plan on recouping that cost by charging their patients when their product makes it to patients for use. Getting cancer and needing treatment should not be a choice between bankrupting yourself and family to try to get well or let the disease take its natural course and die a premature death. A hospital stay due to an accident or illness should not bankrupt a family – no matter what. These are very clear black and white moral stances, I see very little room for gray here. Unless the neoliberals get a hold of you.

Their favorite argument – people will ‘value’ the privileges they get more if they have to sacrifice (pay) for it. What about the rich people? They have money to burn, they never have to worry about an illness bankrupting them, they have access to the best hospitals, doctors and treatments; where is their sense of ‘gratefulness’ or the ‘obligation’ to earn the privilege before they are allowed to enjoy it? The children of the rich get to attend Ivy League schools not because of superior academics but because daddy and granddaddy went there and the family has an endowment, which all but guarantees their offspring’s enrollment even if they are complete degenerates and wastrels. Which is no different than Hillary Clinton’s original opposition to free college tuition and that is children of billionaires will abuse the privilege – well, they already are abusing that privilege by using reeking cash to buy it. And please don’t tell me the rich worked hard to earn their money. No one works harder in America than the working class, no one’s labor is more abused than the working class people of America. To lecture the working class about the value of their hard earned money in poor conditions and low pay is an insult to their existence.

This means testing, nickel and diming is also an attempt to portray ‘fairness’; to make sure no one gets anything they don’t deserve to have and didn’t ‘earn’ to get. This is a classic neoliberal argument about why free college is a “really terrible idea”, which can be applied other benefits such as healthcare :

A basic tenet of economics is that costs should be borne by the consumer. There’s good reason for this. When consumers have skin in the game, they ration much more effectively because they’re confronted with the opportunity costs of their decisions (any money or time spent on education can’t be spent on something else) as well as the reality of paying that money back some day.

By contrast, having prospective students make unobligated investments with other people’s money would almost guarantee that more bad investments are made. That means too many people earning degrees in areas that aren’t in high demand and are unlikely to pay for themselves. It’s not that I don’t want anyone to major in art history or theology, but if you’re going to you should pay for it yourself.

We are talking having access to education and healthcare folks – we aren’t talking about buying a luxury yacht where having “skin in the game” is of paramount importance. Students are not ‘consumers’, patients are not ‘consumers’; they are trying to access essential lifesaving benefits as part of their right to exist and live in dignity (just like that racist murderer Dylann Roof has the right to buy a gun). Compulsory education ends after three years of secondary education, because it was deemed that students without at least a high school diploma cannot get good jobs. Now a high school diploma is useless, everyone needs some sort of post-secondary education to even get a toe in the door, hence the need for free college tuition. And yes, should the day come where having a graduate degree is required to get good jobs, just like Denmark, the government should subsidize that too.

To the neoliberal – everything is about economics, the deity of the free market and how upsetting this supposed ‘natural’ flow of money will bring down the whole house of cards.

The fatal flaw in this theory of one must have “skin in the game” (aka pay enough taxes to earn your privileges) is that in reality, the exact opposite happens. Millions of middle and working class Americans pay plenty of taxes, pay plenty of dues (labor and wages) and got nothing in return. Wall Street got bailed out, Main Street was left to fend for itself. Millennials are being told that the ‘gig economy’ is cool and hip when the reality is the opposite. When the city of Detroit went bankrupt, tens of thousands of retired public employees (teachers, fire fighters, civil servants etc) and those who will retire in the future saw their pensions and health benefits slashed. These are people who pay their taxes and paid their dues and they most certainly weren’t responsible for the abysmal financial state in Detroit. Why weren’t the neoliberals out in force defending their hard earned privileges? Because the market dictated that Detroit had to go bankrupt, Detroit and its residents had outlasted their usefulness. Detroit (and by extension its residents) need to be taken off life support and just expire because that’s what the market is dictating.

One day, we will all be expendable, just like Detroit and it all started with nickel and diming ‘means testing’ and allowing market forces to dictate.

Health Insurance Deductibles – An Extortion of Patients

On top of navigating the maze that is Obamacare, after you’ve found your plan that includes all of the doctors you want, and an in-network hospital with an Emergency Room is within 10 miles of your house (and making sure to save a breath and tell your ambulance driver before losing consciousness), making sure the hospital in which your children’s pediatrician has staff privileges is in-network and hoping that all of the ‘in-network’ locations are reasonably close to your home so it doesn’t take all day to sort out doctor’s appointments, you come to the next thing on the list, and that is when and how do you want to spend your money. Do you want to spend it all now or save your money now and spend it later?

Insurance premiums and deductibles have an inverse relationship, the higher the monthly premium, the lower the deductible, the lower the monthly premium the higher the deductible. And before I go further, let me explain what a deductible is – and that is basically insurance company’s way of bleeding you dry before they’ll step in and do what you pay them to do and that’s to cover your fucking medical bills. So on top of paying x-hundreds of dollars a month in insurance premiums, should I or God forbid my children ever need a hospital stay, I’ve got to shell out extra x-thousands of dollars before the insurance company will pay one dime. As far as how many thousands of dollars will I need to shell out depends on how much I want to pay every month. If I want to be economical and wishful that my children will not need major medical services, I will stick with the low monthly premium and high annual deductible plan. Because come November or December, after I’ve plowed $800 a month for health insurance, but all we ever used was the preventative care, which is covered anyways without subject to deductible, I would have just wasted thousands of dollars for nothing. But if God forbid someone needed a hospital stay, and I had the low monthly premium plan we would be forced to pay $4000 at the very least before the insurance company lifts one finger. Before I go further, it’s worth noting that deductibles renew every year, unlike unused cellphone minutes, they do not roll over to the next calendar year. So, come December 31st of every year – if you have unused deductible, come January 1st, it will expired and you start over again. So, potentially, anyone, on any given year or even consecutive years running, can access just under the amount of deductibles of medical services and basically be paying for all their own healthcare whilst being ‘fully covered’.

This is one area Obamacare didn’t address at all. They pretended to address it by putting artificial ‘caps’ on the wrong things. They put artificial caps on doctor’s salaries – which is the least of the problems in this equation. Doctor’s are not the people raising the cost of healthcare, it’s the health equipment manufactures and providers, pharmaceuticals and the fuzzy and grey R&D where untold billions are spent on ‘research for new drugs’ without ever needing to account for what the money being spent on or if the money spent is even effective towards the research. The effect of that is reflected in every medical bill you get.  I’ve heard anecdotally from people I speak to, that after doing the math, it wasn’t worth it for some people to attend medical school rack up hundreds of thousands of student loans and become doctors, especially if it’s like ER doctors or General Practitioner because of the salary caps. It makes more sense to be a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. How does artificially capping the doctor’s salary help bring down the cost of healthcare? It just discourages people from becoming doctors as it’s very expensive to go through medical school and do all the necessary training only to have a lifetime salary cap of x-dollars especially for those doctors who are not going into the more lucrative fields like anesthesiology or radiology. Obamacare mandated that 80% of premium payments must go towards healthcare and health services and any amount not used must to be refunded to policy holders at the end of every year. While it’s nice to receive a small check from your insurance provider, it still doesn’t go towards solving the real problem, which is lowering the cost of healthcare. To start off, the whole system of deductibles in health insurance should be abolished all together. While it makes sense to institute a deductible in other forms of insurance such as property insurance or car insurance – those premiums are substantially lower than health insurance; people normally access their health insurance not because they want to but they need to. To add such a prohibitive cost on top of a health emergency and the patient already pays monthly premiums is the equivalent of extortion.

In this whole debate about the cost of healthcare, as usual, is riddled with red herrings and false alarms. Doctors are not the main reason why healthcare cost is out of control. Doctors are essential in a well functioning healthcare system, yet the insurance industry are putting the blame on error prone doctors for their continuing increase in premiums and deductibles. The high cost of malpractice insurance and doctors passing on that cost to patients is a symptom of a larger problem. The problem is our overly litigious environment. Ambulance chasing attorneys are a dime a dozen and when they smell a whiff of blood in the water, they convince the patient to sue doctors and hospitals and they take their 33% - it’s an easy paycheck. Doctors and hospitals, to counteract this, begin practicing defensive medicine, ordering every test, every scan, regardless if necessary or not just so in the event they get sued – they are covered at least in the negligence department. Putting caps on malpractice suits again is just another artificial fix to a deeper problem, what’s more, it robs patients who suffer from true medical malpractice to be shortchanged in their compensation.

Capping the pay of doctors and providers on its own is not problematic if all the other cost related issues are addressed at the same time, especially the shadowy R&D and ‘marketing’. The billions spent on marketing and ‘research’ gets passed down the chain of medical services. For a routine hospital stay, they charge you $15 for an aspirin. We all know aspirin doesn’t cost anywhere near as much. A routine surgery can cost anywhere from $30,000-$40,000 for less than half a days use of the operating room and staff. A bag of IV doesn’t cost $200, an overnight stay at a regular room easily runs over $10,000 – cost of an all inclusive 5-star hotel. Every single one of these items, hospitals are padding their costs in the event they get sued. The fear of being sued is a doctor and hospital’s greatest fear. It can put a small practice out of business and a major PR headache for a big reputable hospital. Doctors, like teachers, are having their voice stripped away. Like teachers, big moneyed interest groups are telling doctors what they are doing wrong and how they should be doing their job. A doctor, who holds a medical degree, who is licensed to practice medicine and dispense medical advice and treatment, yet they are being dictated by insurance companies, big Pharma and other interest groups on how to do their jobs. And while they are at it, they line their pockets whilst cutting the pay of doctors – the people who actually do the life saving.

While Obamacare addressed the problems on a surface level and provided artificial band aid fixes, he never attempted to reign in unaccountable spending at big Pharma and medical equipment companies. Does a MRI of your right thumb really cost $1200? Speaking of scans, because of improvements and breakthroughs in breast cancer screening, the cost now is so low that it’s included in preventative screening coverage. If GlaxoSmithKline or Eli Lilly says they spent $500 million researching a new cancer treatment protocol hence treatment for cancer will cost over $100,000 over the treatment period of a few months – they should be made to prove that they did indeed spend this money on research and not research and marketing. No one denies research is important, not just with new drugs and treatment protocols but medical equipment and streamlining technology etc, but since these big firms will pass that cost onto the medical provider and the provider onto the patient when their research is finally done and their final ‘product’ is on the market, the public has a right to know exactly what research was done. You often see television commercials of big pharma saying they spent $200 million researching this drug or that drug, thereby justifying their patent and charging a premium while they own their patent, but the public never gets to see the proof of how that $200 million was spent.

While on the topic of research spending for new drugs, big Pharma do not spend their research dollars based on what medicines are most needed, they spend their money on what will be the most profitable. The most classic example of this are the erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra and Cialis, hundreds of millions was spent to ‘research’ and ‘market’ these drugs to a bunch of horny old men who want a second or third hurrah in the bedroom and they’ve made a killing on these drugs. In fact, it’s even been approved to be covered by Medicare under the Plan D in some states. While Viagra and Cialis is celebrated by society as a step forward in treating erectile dysfunction, the female contraceptive pill is facing tougher and tougher restriction for coverage. You have Catholic organizations refusing to cover it for their employees – even if it’s at no additional cost to them and they need not even know about it – but, based on principle, they can’t knowingly allow it. There’s Rush Limbaugh demanding a sex tape for every woman who demands to have her birth control pills fully covered by Obamacare but the elite (who mostly consist of horny old men anyways) have no moral qualms about having their erectile dysfunction medicine be covered by Plan D of Medicare.

A packet of lifesaving Tamiflu should not cost $100 to buy for those without insurance or those with insurance but haven’t met their Rx deductible yet. I was struck down with a really bad flu once, and my college health clinic was able to let me buy Tamiflu at a student discount, by the time I was on my third day of taking Tamiflu, I was never so grateful. Research money should be poured into lifesaving drugs for dangerous medical conditions and illnesses. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to treat erectile dysfunction or getting rid of your toe nail fungus, but research money should first be allocated to serious diseases which have no known cure.

The soaring cost of medical care, the big moneyed interest group, as usual blame it on everything but themselves. They blame it on doctors making too many errors, doctors constantly demanding more reimbursement, ambulance chaser attorneys, obesity, smoking, poor diet, the aging baby boomers, people living longer. While all of these things play a part in the rising cost of healthcare and need to be addressed, why does the for-profit insurance companies, big pharma and medical equipment corporations get to keeping lining their pockets? And why are the patients made to bear this cost? Especially when they are at their most vulnerable?

The Unspoken Catastrophe of Obamacare

The Obama-era is nearly over. President Barack Obama was the first president I voted for with great enthusiasm and confidence. Eight years ago I’d argue that he came at the perfect time for me to vote for him, my political consciousness was developed and I had a candidate I can vote for which matched my political consciousness. In November of 2008, Obama was elected, the country was elated. It was a historic election, the first black president. He was going to bring great change to our country. In the euphoria of post election – some even forgot that we are in the deepest recession the country has ever seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The economy was something Obama can wave a magic wand and fix too.

His signature piece of legislation was of course Obamacare passed in 2010. It was to be his signature achievement in domestic policy. It was what he wanted to be remembered for. He passed this bill while Republicans in both houses were kicking and screaming. There were other serious problems in the country at the time, namely the recession, high unemployment rate, but he kept his laser focus on healthcare reform. It had been on his agenda since he was a presidential candidate. He wanted to overhaul and reform the broken, cost prohibitive healthcare system in America, where you’ve either got to be very poor, very rich or past the age of 65 to get decent healthcare. He wanted to do what the Clintons couldn’t do. The most obvious fix is the single-payer system or convert the current medicare system to cover everyone, not just people over 65.

He started out the reform proposing a single-payer system, but when the insurance companies lobbies came calling, harassing and threatening Democratic legislators, one by one they caved. What we ended up with was a hybrid between a single-payer system with the market system. State medicaid was expanded to cover those earning in the bottom 25th percentiles, but that was subject to the discretion of the states. So governors in Red states one by one, decided to cut their noses to spite their faces, many rejected the expanded Medicaid. Yet as each one rejected the expansion, they had no alternative plans to keep the most vulnerable (usually women or PoC) covered, in fact some even cut aid to state Medicaid – such as the state of Texas under governor Rick Perry. The states that needed the expansion of Medicaid the most, rejected it, and those are states with high population of people living in poverty.

For the rest of the people that fell in the middle, we were stuck with an impossibly difficult, time consuming, byzantine process while trying to apply for health coverage for the family. Where if you ticked the wrong box by mistake can screw up your whole family’s application. Every year, come renewal time,  you’ve got to check and make sure all of the doctors your family sees are still in the network you are on – if they are, then you can continue with your coverage, if not,  you have to find a new insurance plan to include them. More than half the time, the doctors of your choice are no longer in ‘your network’ because they found another ‘network’ which offers higher reimbursements.

While it’s nice the federal government provide generous subsidies upfront, even up to families of 4 making $125,000 per year and the demand side of the equation is solved, the supply side of the equation (the insurance companies and health service providers) presents new problems. While it’s illegal to do, many doctors, because of the hassle involved simply refuse to accept anyone who purchased health insurance from state or federal exchanges. Meaning to say, if two patients had the exact same health insurance, but one patient purchased it privately (off exchange or through employer) and the other patient purchased the coverage on the exchange (with federal subsidy), the doctor will take the patient who purchased it privately. The doctor will attempt to work out a cheaper ‘cash’ deal with the patient who purchased their coverage on exchange just to avoid the extra hassle and paperwork they must do for patients who purchased their insurance on the exchange with federal subsidies. The insurance plans with federal subsidies reimburse slower so no doctor or healthcare provider likes them and one can’t blame them. It creates extra work for their office staff which would then raise cost of wages. I was told this practice was illegal, but many doctors are doing it on the sly.

A lot of doctors, in the face of Obamacare decided to ‘go private’. Our children’s pediatrician did this. He didn’t want to bother with insurance companies at all. So what he did instead was he charged a flat fee per child per month and that flat fee would include wellness visits, immunization shots and sick visits too. Amazingly, he was able to keep over 50% of his patients and through word of mouth recommendation, was able to get new patients. So, if we wanted to keep our pediatrician, whom we love because he has an alternative and flexible immunization schedule and give my children lots of stickers at each visit, we have to pay his monthly fees and health insurance on top of that. Then you have the in-network and out-of-network issue, in non-emergencies, it’s fairly easy to arrange to see all in-network providers. But what if there was an emergency and an ambulance was called and you are unconscious or bleeding profusely, are you meant to tell your ambulance driver to make sure to take you to Hospital A instead of Hospital B or else you’ll be stuck with a $10,000 deductible – which would really render your insurance useless?

And for those who are on Medicaid, you can forget about seeing the doctor ‘of your choice’. Most doctors with established practices stay away from Medicaid, reimbursement is low and slow and involves a ton of paperwork, a trifecta no well reputable doctor wants to touch. So, doctors who tend to accept medicaid are doctors in not-so-good parts of town, in dingy buildings where the waiting room is full of coughing, puking, screaming children and their exhausted mothers. This is not a slight on those doctors or nurses, those are great doctors who care deeply about their patients, but they are overwhelmed, with too many patients and not enough reimbursement, forced to practice in bad parts of town, in old buildings and most of those patients are women and children of color or undocumented immigrants. Many community doctors in California treat undocumented immigrants for free or for very cheaply. These are great doctors who perform their Hippocratic oath with very little reward in end.

That Obamacare allowed 90% of Americans to be covered by health insurance is an often touted statistic to prove the success of the program. Yes, 10% fell through the gaps and it’s the most vulnerable 10% of the population, but that’s becaues their states refused to expand medicaid and then you have the few lazy people who just can’t be bothered with applying for insurance. However, being ‘covered’ doesn’t mean anything if that coverage is restricting, cost prohibitive in the deductible and co-pay side. That’s no different than having just the basic coverage, just in case of a major medical catastrophe or accident happens – you will be covered, but for those with chronic conditions that require frequent doctor’s visits, or those with children who catch colds and viruses from other children. The cost of healthcare is still prohibitive.

I don’t want to go on a rant about Obamacare and not point out the great benefits that came with the law. Pre-existing condition is no longer a reason why anyone can be denied coverage, it was nice for once while applying for insurance, your insurance agent doesn’t even ask you about any pre-existing conditions you have. Children get to stay on their parents insurance until age 26. There are no more lifetime maximums for coverage, so those with serious chronic conditions who need a lot of medical care don’t ever have to worry about their insurance limit running out while they are still alive. Children’s policies immediately include a dental policy, so parents don’t have to purchase additional dental policies for their children. Children born with serious conditions are immediately covered on their parents health insurance plan without new ‘underwriting’ to determine eligibility or to raise their parent’s insurance premiums more. All of these are great improvements – but it doesn’t address the cost side. Those with a known pre-existing condition while can’t be denied coverage, can be charged higher premiums. Women of childbearing age are charged higher premiums – even if those said women have taken permanent measures to not have any more children. People over the age of 60 but not yet eligible for Medicare are charged sky-high premiums. This was the trade off or deal Obama made with insurance companies. This is where they ‘got’ us. Right now, some insurance companies such as Humana and Unitedhealthcare have chosen to exit the federal and state exchange business as they are losing money and they can’t do what they want with their plans and how they spend their money. If exchanges keeps losing insurance providers, then the ‘competition’ side of the exchange will weaken, with less competition, premiums will begin to rise anyway.

Which brings me back to the single-payer system, a beautifully simple, wonderful solution to the mess of choosing the right insurance and making sure the network includes your favorite doctors. There will only be one network, in which all licensed practicing doctors and health practitioners and providers belong. Very much like Medicare, it’s a single-payer plan for people over the age of 65. Incidentally, most of the people I know who work in the medical field love Medicare. Reimbursement is prompt, without much paperwork fuss and the amount is adequate. The patient is happy and the doctor is happy to treat the patient and provide them with great care. Most seniors also love their Medicare. The doctor’s practice is a business, their income has to exceed expenses for it remain a going concern. Perhaps a single-payer system can introduce method of reimbursement that not only reimburses doctors on a per patient basis, but subsidize the doctor on his overhead expenses as well. Since it is a single payer system – market based competition won’t apply, the government needs to make sure that each doctor’s practice, practicing in the single network of the healthcare system is well looked after and maintained. The area of healthcare, on principle and just on human decency should not be one that is based on ‘profit’. An insurance company making a ‘profit’ off of the illness of other people is grotesque. Their business model of hopefully having enough ‘healthy’ people who rarely visit the doctor but dutifully pays their monthly premiums to compensate for those who aren’t healthy is Orwellian and dystopian.

A person’s health is their wealth. It’s not a old cliche but a simple fact of life. That without your health, nothing else in the world matters. Billionaires will gladly give over their whole fortunes if someone can cure them of an incurable illness. I am willing to bet all I have that Steve Jobs would give over significant amounts of his fortune if someone could cure his incurable cancer that ultimately claimed his life prematurely. It took me having my mother who became critically ill, but thankfully was in a country that had universal health care that provided her with lifesaving surgery and brought her back to full health and not costing her a dime for me to appreciate this old ‘cliche’. I shudder to think what would have happened to her if she was in the United States when her health crisis happened and she was inadequately covered.

Healthcare and Education: Still a Privilege and not a Right

Bernie Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton. He’s officially conceded his position in the race and accepted that she is the winner of the Democratic nominee for the race of the President of the United States. Bernie supporters knew this would come but still lamented when the inevitable happened.

In exchange for Sanders endorsement, Hillary Clinton has hopped on the Bernie bandwagon for free college tuition for state universities and colleges. The New York Times headline screamed Candidates Join Clinton in Push for Tuition Plan Inspired by SandersBut, alas, upon closer examination, it’s the same old ‘means tested’, reserved for those that truly deserve it type of assistance:

Mrs. Clinton’s program, modeled after a Sanders plan, would allow members of families with an income of $125,000 or less to qualify for free tuition at schools in their home states by 2021. Funding will depend partly on participation by the states, but the idea has had wide appeal and will also be included in the party platform.

To break this down: it won’t take effect until 2021, it only applies to ‘families with an income of $125,000 or less’ and the biggest catch of all ‘funding will depend partly on participation by the states, but the idea has had wide appeal and will also be included in the party platform.’ Which really means nothing if the states get to opt out of such a program (Obamacare dejavu), and we can already guess which states will choose to opt out, those that need it the most that are south of the Mason-Dixie Line.

The Clinton campaign and the neoliberals took an idea by Sanders, which was one of his most popular platforms during his campaign, co-opted it, watered it down and is serving it up to the people as a bone the neoliberals are throwing to its voters. In the final analysis, access to decent high quality post-secondary education, just like health care, is ultimately a privilege and not a right.

A right is something that a person is endowed with by virtue of being born, by virtue of being human. A privilege or entitlement is something one must earn or be endowed with based on social class dictated by capitalism. A right cannot be taken away but privileges can be snatched away with the stroke of a pen.

Education, specifically, higher education, so crucial to the economic futures of people. Sanders made it a platform in his presidential campaign to provide free tuition to all students who wish to attend public state universities and colleges. It’s really caught on, especially with young people who are saddled with tens of thousands dollars of debt and no gainful employment after graduation. And it’s free with no strings attached, even children of billionaires could access this right. Hillary Clinton jumped on that saying that the wrong type of people (children of the super rich) will take advantage of it. But she would only take this view because she sees quality post-secondary education as a privilege and not a right. Because if it’s a right, everyone should have access to it, yes, even the grandchildren of Donald Trump. Because it’s a right.

President Obama wanted to do what the Clintons couldn’t do in the 90s, which is to pass some kind universal health care legislation where every person in America has access to good quality health care coverage that won’t put them in bankruptcy if they are uninsured or inadequately insured. His original plan was ambitious and that is to provide a single-payer system, basically Medicare for everyone (another one of Sanders campaign platforms). It would put individual, for profit insurance companies out of business and maybe the vast, expensive, overly bureaucratic medical services sector will be forced to streamline and for once, tend to the needs of their patients first before profits. What we got in the end was the monstrosity called Obamacare, an even messier, byzantine, convoluted set of bureaucracy, endless paperwork, endless cross referencing of doctors to make sure they are still on the same network as last year. Obamacare solved some problems such as people can’t be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions, children cannot be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, children can remain on their parents health insurance until they are 26, and pretty generous subsidies have been provided to families on middle to higher income brackets. Those who can’t afford any insurance due to under or part time employment or unemployment can go on their state Medicaid (if their state chooses to participate in the expansion of Medicaid, another caveat that left millions uninsured). Obamacare expanded the funding of Medicaid to states accommodate those who can’t afford to purchase any insurance – but states can choose to opt out. Those who choose to not go through the bother of unending paperwork and bureaucracy will be fined, but then that fine can be waived too if you are indigent. So on the surface, while it may not be a single-payer plan, it’s a markedly improved system. Two years after Obamacare’s full implementation came into effect, 90% of the people have medical coverage of one form or another.

But the devil is in the details. This is typical of Obama, trying to find the middle of the road, a grand compromise so that everyone settling for something is better than no one getting anything. Those that voted for Obama, find out fairly early on, that this is modus operandi for every important issue of his presidency:

The lawyerly and evasive Obama, who always tries to please everybody, as usual winds up pleasing nobody.

It’s like tossing scraps to angry people, demanding that they be happy with scraps or they get nothing at all. With the convoluted Obamacare, the insurance companies still get to do business as usual – which is profiting off of people’s illnesses and injuries, albeit on a lesser scale because 80% of the premiums must go towards patient care and not administrative and marketing and any premiums not used towards patient care must be refunded back to subscribers at the end of the year. But Obama’s refusal to shut down or reign in the for-profit insurance business, insurance companies have found other ways to stick it to the subscribers. Such as charging higher deductibles, out of pocket expense and out of network expense before the ‘real coverage’ kicks in. So the best insurance policy is still to not get sick or injured at all.

The single payer-plan is a brilliantly simple and straightforward concept. It requires no in depth explanation or fancy charts created by policy wonks to explain how it works. In a civilized society, who cares about its citizens and the human rights of all of its citizens should endeavor to provide quality healthcare to all, free of charge at the point of service. It’s provided through taxation obviously, but it’s free at point of service to all that need it, any time they need it, rich or poor it doesn’t matter. This is not a privilege or an entitlement, this is a right. It is right of every human being to have access to quality healthcare when they need it. No mother should have to wait out a 105 degree fever at home with a screaming baby because she can’t afford a doctor and if push comes to shove she takes her baby to the emergency room and she’s stuck with a $5000 bill for tending to a fever which could be cured with an anti-fever injection, doctored monitored ice bath and some antibiotics. Many countries have have implemented single payer health plan and it’s worked quite well. They range from our Canadian neighbors to the north, to most of the EU countries and the UK. Yes, the cost is significant, especially as the baby boomers in each country age, but all in all, it’s a fair and equitable system where contribution and access balances each other out in the long run. And if Cuba, one of the most economically sanctioned, economically deprived countries in the world can provide universal healthcare to its citizens, what excuse is there for the richest nation in the world. And they don’t just provide the basics, they provide excellent healthcare, better than the United States. Doctors in Cuba have learned to stretch what little resources they have to make sure everyone’s healthcare needs are looked after. So, it’s not about the money or the cost, or the aging population, or smoking, or obesity, or heart disease. It’s about privilege. It’s about making sure insurance companies get richer and make more profit off the backs of the sick and injured. The elite want to keep good quality healthcare to themselves and everyone else has to make do with scraps. For all the lawmakers that strongly opposed the watered down health care reform to be known as Obamacare, they (and their immediate families) got to enjoy the best health insurance coverage that exists, offered only to high level federal employees, something that was conferred to them on the basis of their elected positions, but they don’t want to extend that privilege to everyone else.

It’s the same when it comes to education: good, high quality college education, where students graduate without debt only belongs to the elite. Only the children of the elite get to graduate college without debt. And in the new plan put forth by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform, only parents who make less than $125,000 per year, can their children then enjoy the privilege of attending a state university for free. So, if they make $125,500 – they’ve been shut out of this privilege because they exceeded the bottom income by $500. Why not make it free for all students? Yes, even the children of billionaires, should they wish to  mingle with those less fortunate than they, it should be seen as an investment in the future of this country. World War II veterans got the G.I. Bill and FHA loans to get a jump start in their economic futures, which then created the most prosperous generation the world has ever seen, why can’t we take that approach again with our future generations by funding their college educations for free with no strings attached. This is investment in human capital.

In the new-age quackery of ‘I am special just by being me, because I exist’ mentality, everyone tries to outdo each other in the ‘special’ department. To be special also means to be privileged in some way by having access to things that others don’t, more importantly, if everyone has what you’ve got, then you are not special enough. If everyone has access to good health care, get the doctor they want without the hassle or jumping through a million hoops, and paying through the nose just to get an appointment with a specialist then they are no longer special. If everyone can get into University of Texas – Dallas Campus, one of the best public universities in Texas, then poor Abigail Fisher is no longer the special snowflake that her mother told her she was. Especially if she was weeded out by her own mediocrity and not affirmative action quotas; an obvious and simple fact she won’t accept.

Because things that should have been a basic human right which have, through neoliberal policies, been turned into a privilege, everyone now is ‘checking their privilege’ and keeping score on who has more privilege based on what they have access to because of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender identity and whatever intersections I haven’t thought of yet, and the list never ends. Countless articles, blog entries, books, newspaper bylines have expounded on the subject of ‘privilege’, who’s got it and how much of it.

When trillions are spent overseas in the wars in the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan over a period of 12 years, spent without any accountability to the taxpayers; do not tell the American people that a single-payer health care is too expensive or free tuition for state colleges is unfeasible, or reduce the already meager social security benefits or means test Medicare. There is plenty of money to go around, it’s just being spent in the wrong place.

That’s what the neoliberal view reduces us to: men and women so confronted by the hassle of everyday life that we’re either forced to master it, like the wunderkinder of the blogosphere, or become its slaves. We’re either athletes of the market or the support staff who tend to the race. – Corey Robin

When everyone has access to basic rights which allows them to prosper and get ahead without needing to access some form of privilege (which, in other words, someone somewhere is being denied theirs so that you can have yours), the whole futile and often comical exercise of privilege checking will lose its purpose (and hopefully go out of fashion). If the 99% is scraping the bottom of the barrel to survive on scraps the 1% tosses out, does it really matter that Kevin the Asian kid has ‘more’ privilege because he’s Asian and not black? All this privilege checking is just a distraction the neoliberals want us to engage in to divert our attention from the real cause of all this and that is profound social and economical inequality. Corruption and manipulation of economic markets at the highest level of banking and government and the people who are elected to serve the people of this country are just serving their own interests, lining their own pockets.

The way to do that is not to immerse people even more in the ways and means of the market, but to give them time and space to get out of it. That’s what a good welfare state, real social democracy, does: rather than being consumed by life, it allows you to make your life. Freely. One less bell to answer, not one more. – Corey Robin

Half baked measures like this means-tested free tuition for state universities, only if the state chooses to participate in the program should be rejected in its entirety by the Left, it’s all or nothing. No more of this Obama, wishy-washy, in the middle of the road, trying to please everyone nonsense. The results of the last eight years show, when you try to please everybody, no real progress is ever made, just band aid measures to paper over the cracks.

There was never going to be an indictment.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was not indicted. She will not get indicted. The FBI chose to not recommend to press charges and the Attorney General agreed. She is home free. The State Department ‘reopened‘ its investigation but it’s just another sideshow to the main shitshow. It will drag on until a few more months and miraculously, on the eve of the general election, she will be given the all clear again. After she’s elected president, they’ll open another investigation which will take years and then find that there is no grounds to recommend charges. It’s like the white cops killing unarmed black men and children, after all the investigations, no one is charged; though it’s with much sadness and regret that no charges will be filed.

This ’email scandal’ is a fake scandal, manufactured and propagated to distract from the real scandal; and that is Hillary Clinton is corrupt. She is corrupt because she has been bought and paid for by Wall Street, defense contractors, Wal-Mart, private prison corporations, corporate mass media and other big multinational corporations. She will be elected to serve them and their interests and occasionally, when the mood takes her, she’ll throw minorities, women, LGBT community a bone or maybe two. And when she does, she’ll be lauded as a president who ‘saved’ the country from itself.

While the mass corporate media was whipping itself up into a frenzy about how the Secretary of the State can be so careless as to set up her own private email server in the basement of her home, without oversight from the State Department, without taking the proper precautions to make sure her emails, especially emails containing classified information isn’t breached; Wikileaks has already hacked into the State Department leaked her emails to the public, which really renders the whole FBI investigation moot – if it’s aim is to stop classified materials being leaked to the public. So, if Wikileaks or anyone who has the tools and skills can hack her private email server and cables from the State Department, it clearly wasn’t secure to begin with and proper precautions were not taken to make sure this classified information isn’t breached. What’s more, anyone who has access to internet connection and a computer or smart device can read them. And they run from the mundane of asking her trusted aide Huma Abedin to establish the fax line to the more sinister of deliberately destabilizing Syria to help Israel. This leads to two conclusions: first – the State Department is so lax with their electronic security that they allowed this to happen or second, these emails were deliberately made to be hacked so the public can see what she’s up to. Either way, to spend resources on investigating something that is meant to be kept secret while it’s already available to the public is just moronic and they take Americans to be fools.

The real scandal is not the unsecured email servers. The real scandal is her deposing Qaddafi in Libya and the resulting mayhem and chaos that was left behind. Even the tragedy at Benghazi isn’t the real scandal, what happened in Benghazi is the direct fallout of deposing and having Gaddafi killed leaving Libya in a power vacuum which now terrorists have filled. She supported the war in Iraq, she was just Senator at the time but she voted Yes to invasion, an illegal invasion of a sovereign state. The invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya has led total breakdown and turned former functioning sovereign states into failed states.

The real scandal is her support for domestic policies of her husband which eroded the most basic safety net for the poorest of Americans, often single mothers and women of color; yet she considers herself first and foremost a feminist. Her support for a crime bill passed by Bill Clinton saw an exponential increase in mass incarceration of black and brown people. She supported right wing military coups in Central America, destabilizing a frail and impoverished region even further, causing millions of migrants to flee north to the United States, only to deport women and children back to the hell that she helped create.

And in spite of all this, her supporters, the #IAmWithHer horde of bots, those without an original idea of their own, Twitter Hill-bots, Hill-shills who write for Salon, Slate and Daily Kos some of whom are paid for by her Superpacs don’t seem to care. They just want to see a woman take the highest office in the land. Before the severity of her connections with Wall Street and unscrupulous corporations came to light, they defended any and all of her actions. The Iraq vote: it’s so 2002 – only childish people keep bringing this up, time to move on: not so fast, never, the illegal Iraq invasion destroyed a sovereign state and ruined millions of lives, and just the eve before Eid el Fitr – the most celebratory and holiest day in Islam – sort of like their Christmas, where people celebrate with huge feasts, buy new clothes, the biggest suicide bombing went off, killing almost 300 people, in a Shia neighborhood, ISIS claimed responsibility – more like boasted about their responsibility. The Iraqis – bless them, went back to the site on Eid el Fitr and prayed out in the open, for the dead and for themselves. About Libya – she was only responding to requests from Anti-Gaddafi rebels on the ground: no, actually, she was aiming to destabilize the whole region to help Israel. A lot of the chemical weapons in Libya made its way to Syria. Sending hardline Salafists and foreign fighters into Syria to aid the Syrian people in their grassroots uprising against Assad: nonsense, the US, Israel, Gulf States want Assad out of the way each for their own reasons, so much so that even mortal enemies, Gulf States and Israel have a tacit, under the table agreement to oust Assad. These are also countries that often hold protests which chant ‘Death to Israel’. But for the sole purpose of ousting Assad, they will be under the table friends allies.

When her crimes and corruption came to light, and it became impossible to defend without looking like a complete and total fool – the ‘lesser evil’ narrative came out of the woodwork. She’s the lesser evil than Donald Trump – perhaps, but only in detail. Before the first campaign event even kicked off, before Hillary Clinton even announced her candidacy, the establishment has already decided who the Democratic nominee will be and they, along with their cronies in the media, cronies in corporations and big businesses will do anything to make it happen. Then Bernie Sanders happened, an insurgency from the left, someone who presented a platform which appealed to the young people. Earning a living wage, at least $15 per hour, free college for state schools, single-payer health insurance and a candidate that represented all around decency. Clinton’s supporters went after Sanders and his supporters like they were the enemy of the establishment. When Sanders won 22 states, many were shocked, he was supposed to be a fringe candidate and exit from the main stage when the time came. His campaign may be over, but many of Sanders supporters have not jumped on the Clinton bandwagon, not like her supporters jumped on the Obama bandwagon in 2008.

So now we are back at where we started with the whole email non-scandal. She isn’t going to be indicted. The whole thing was a just a ruse, a subterfuge designed to obscure the real issues. The FBI as though following a script, didn’t recommend charges, albeit very reluctantly, and begin to detail how she didn’t hand over all of her emails and she wasn’t as cooperative as she made it appear and then the ominous ‘there’s lots more that we don’t know’; but in light of it all, we aren’t going to recommend charges.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations doesn’t exist to punish people of the establishment or the ruling class. They aren’t the police officers of the federal government, who are protecting and serving the people of this country. The FBI exists to oppress and to put down who they consider to be subversive groups. The drug war was a war on poor black and brown people, it was never about protecting communities from the scourge of drug abuse. If it were, they’d use the money spent on hunting down drug dealers and locking up non-violent offenders and spend it on drug treatment for addicts instead. The drug war created a whole industries of employment for law enforcement, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, investigators, private prisons and all that they employ and everything in between. At the same time it locked up millions of black and brown young men and women for non-violent drug crimes, destroying a whole generation. The FBI spied on Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to get dirt on them to blackmail them. They shut down the Black Panthers, a left-wing black nationalist group with communist leanings. They infiltrated the Communist Party in the United States in order to expose and shut them down. They even spied on John Lennon for his anti-war protests. Yet when in 2008, when the Great Recession happened because of the actions of criminal bankers on Wall Street, crimes committed in broad daylight, under the guise of legality, where was the FBI and their investigators? This should be very easy to investigate, these crimes were committed in the open with plenty of paper and electronic trail and witnesses. Wall Street bankers lost trillions of dollars which belonged to American people (401K, pensions etc) and the government bailed them out. They squandered the money of American investors, foreclosed on their homes, while they had golden parachutes and still lived comfortably in their homes, where was the FBI? Bernard Madoff was only investigated because his sons turned him in, he swindled billions of dollars from his friends, charities and scores of smaller investors, and no one suspected a thing until his sons turned him in. The FBI like the local police, cannot be trusted to protect the average person.

Now that this shitshow is in full swing, investigation after investigation will take place but none of it going anywhere, not resulting in any charges or even recommendation of charges, wasting the taxpayer’s money to deflect from the real issues. This is what the next eight years will look like, we better fasten our seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

To Have Understanding and Relief

I’ve written a lot on this blog about having compassion, tolerance, understanding and breaking the stigma for people who suffer from mental illnesses – the full range of them, from mild to serious. The stigma  of having a mental illness and the conspiracy of silence around it keeps mental health sufferers from seeking treatment and properly dealing with their mental health issues; which can easily go from mild to serious if left untreated or unattended to.

These past few days I’ve had to put what I believe and preach into action.

A relative of ours had come to town to visit with his friends and family. He had been struggling with drug abuse, homelessness and run-ins with law enforcement as a result of those. He is on the mend and is tying up loose ends with his probation. The person that was due to pick him up at the airport never saw him come out of the gate and we began to wonder if he even made it on the flight at all. He’d lost his phone again and no one was able to contact him to see where he was at.

A week later, we get a call from a local county jail mental health social worker saying that he was arrested at the airport for having a mid-flight meltdown and he broke a window at the airport after he deplaned. He did make his flight but was arrested upon his arrival. It’s unclear why he didn’t call anyone right away but waited a week to have the social worker call us. We find out that he’d recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia by two doctors and his symptoms seem to confirm the diagnosis. When he was a teenager, he showed signs of paranoia, but by then he’d already begun using drugs, his parents assumed that his paranoia was a result of drug use and if just stop using drugs those paranoias would go away. They didn’t believe he had a mental illness.

We learned that he had been evicted from his shared house because of destruction of property and disturbing uncontrollable behavior which frightened the other tenants. His landlady had been kind and understanding towards him but he had destroyed the room he was renting, the common area and now other tenants are threatening to leave, she felt had no choice but to ask him to leave. We also learned that he had lost his job because of the voices he was hearing and he was talking to the voices and having angry outbursts with them. He began to hear voices about a year ago but he said he was able to ‘control it [the voices]’ but recently, he’s no longer able to – hence the downward spiral. He said he’d been off drugs for over a year and was doing well and on the mend. But now he’s got this new diagnosis to contend with and life has been hard for him. He doesn’t like being alone, especially at night. He hears the voices less if another person is in the room talking to him and it’s usually when he’s alone that these outbursts and destruction of property occurs.

The DA office didn’t really care about the criminal charge as long as he paid for the damaged property and his family pooled funds to pay the damages. He was released from jail and his charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. We urged him to get psychiatric treatment and help, he said he was fine and didn’t need any. He stayed with various relatives until it was time for him to leave again. He first stayed with his sister for a few days but she got scared of his outbursts and put him up in a hotel room. He was in a slightly more high end hotel for two nights but because of his outbursts and screaming he was asked to leave. For the third night, he was put up in a roadside motel, not out of callousness but his sister figured they won’t care if he has outbursts. The hotel expense began to add up and she asked us if he could stay with us for a couple of days until his return flight home. We agreed. We figured it was just two days and he’ll be accompanied for most of these two days so it wouldn’t be that big of a problem. And most importantly, he isn’t violent with other people, children or animals – only objects and himself.

We went out of our way to make him comfortable. Stocked the fridge with his favorite foods and snacks and prepared the spare room for him. My children were excited to meet a new member of their large extended family. He arrived, looked pretty much the same as I saw him last time a few years ago at a family wedding. He appeared in good physical health but his face was weathered from being exposed to the elements during his homeless days. His behavior seemed fine with no obvious signs of mental distress.

My not being a blood relative of his, but only a relative by marriage, I had to walk a fine line. I wanted to fully welcome him in our home and be sensitive to him and not treat him like someone who is ‘mentally unstable’. In other words, I tried to treat him as normal as I could while making sure he didn’t smash anything up (as he is prone to do when the voices in his head distress him – he can’t help this). The first day we all got along wonderfully and he was lovely to my children. He spent hours playing with them, they loved him. The second day, my husband and I had to go to a business meeting and we decided to leave him at home with our children along with our usual babysitter. The meeting took longer than expected and by the time we got home, I found our normal babysitter to be a bit worried and a little distressed. I asked her what’s wrong, she pulled me aside to tell me that he was having some ‘issues’, he’d been talking to himself, slamming doors and smashed a dining room chair against a wall. My children were fine, they weren’t scared, except my four year old kept asking him why he was slamming the doors. He apologized to us for smashing the chair. He said he got angry, we asked him at what and why, he said he didn’t know. It was an ‘episode’.

Throughout his whole stay I managed a delicate balance between not making him feel uncomfortable because of his condition and at the same time making sure all was well. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I was a bundle of nervous energy and anxiety, mostly of my own doing. I wanted to treat him normally, at the same time I want to make sure my home and belongings stay in tact and any outbursts don’t scare my children. I unknowingly began to hover over him, asking him if he needed anything every half an hour and asked if he was alright. I jumped up at any sounds or unusual thuds. Any attempt or pretense of treating him as though he were normal pretty much evaporated. Finally, when my husband, bless him, woke up at 3 AM to drive him to the airport for his early morning flight, we were both relieved.

Like many who suffer from mental illness, he was reluctant to talk much about it, except that he’s “fine and doesn’t need help”. He opened up to his sisters about what’s happened to him and they’ve relayed the news to us. He’s been given a prescription by a psychiatrist but he’s unsure how it would affect him. He has no insurance and is insured through state funded Medi-caid. If he has another mental breakdown again, he might get arrested again and there’s no telling how the arresting officer might handle that aggressiveness (one he can’t help). During one of his episodes, his landlady called the ambulance instead of the cops and he was hospitalized for a day or two. Hospitals and social services are stretched to the limit on helping mental illness patients. The definition of ‘severe’ cases keeps getting stricter to avoid hospitalizing people. The best scenario for him would be to live in some sort of shared accommodation so that he isn’t alone. His siblings are married and all have busy lives of their own, whoever lives with him besides being a companion will need to be some sort of caretaker, who has knowledge of what living with a schizophrenic is like and lots of patience. How he can arrange this in the near term so that his condition doesn’t deteriorate is beyond all of us. We feel worried but helpless at the same time.