Lebanese Banks Escape Global Financial Crisis

•November 22, 2008 • 1 Comment

Despite global financial turmoil, a small country like Lebanon has shielded its banks, and instead of loosing money has seen its highest financial year in its history. This includes seeing people deposit up “to 500 million dollars in one week, double from what we have seen. People are converting their dollars to the Lebanese pound. ” ( Stated from the Governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank)
BBC News Interviewer: “The financial system is thriving, in Sept as US banks collapsed, money poured in, it is the best financial year in the country’s history..We require little debt and 30% of assets available for each bank, no speculation, and weak banks were forced to merge with bigger banks. ” Lebanon’s banking system has been up against constant political crises, wars, and in general the hardships of being a small Middle Eastern country under constant violence.
Buying and selling toxic debt, loans that have little chance of being repayed the Governor of Lebanon banned all banks from accepting such high risks investments, He said in May 2007 “our policies are built as a reaction to the leveraging taking worldwide, which has been worrying us.”

Here is the article:

One from the Herald Tribune

A large problem though is the national debt of Lebanon, it has the highest GDP debt, and has a slump within its economic growth. However, Lebanon’s position as being a bridge between the West and the East since it is a Christian majority state, offers it protection–the West will not let it dissolve if its national debt became a problem.

The governor’s restrictions don’t seem to be going against market capitalism, so then why didn’t Capitol Hill ban the circulation of toxic debt? Was it work the risk those debts presented, considering unemployment is at the highest its been in 15 years?

A Miracle! America illustrates the Middle East as if there is no hope, nor is there any worth except to exploit their supply of oil. But apparently the Swiss are not the only ones that are prudent when it comes to the handling of finances.

Lebanon, despite its continuous turmoil whether its a Six Day War with Israel, or constant violence within its weakened political state, or its post-colonial progression it has still managed to be resilient in comparison to the dominant Western powers in play. Perhaps instead of constantly criticizing Middle Easterners, American should listen to their tips?

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US Automobile Industry set to Crash? Again?

•November 19, 2008 • 1 Comment

Following the recent bailout bill it appears that skepticists which had disagreed with the bill’s ability to truly address the financial crisis have come true. As we are now seeing, Paulson who very strongly defended the bill saying that it will save the crisis has now recently admitted ” the funds ‘were not a panace’ to cure the country’s economic problems.” (Read that Here)

His full quote:
“The purpose of the financial rescue legislation was to stabilize our financial system and to strengthen it,” he told the financial services committee of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday…
“It is not a panacea for all our economic difficulties.”

So as usual rhetoric in this country goes, first you defend and present the situation as if there was no other choice but to give up $700 billion dollars. I recall Obama and McCain fans saying- WE HAVE NO CHOICE! THE WORLD MARKET WILL CRASH!

And now elements of the truth leak out slowly and indirectly, that perhaps that wasn’t really the solution?

Just yesterday, it was official that Japan’s economy is now in a recession…
“The world’s second-biggest economy had previous shrunk by 0.9% in the April to June quarter”
Even more sad:
“Japan’s economy had experienced its longest period of economic growth since World War II until the sub-prime crisis started a year ago.”

That’s a coincidence, WWII, the last time America fought a just war that gave us our credibility and won us global prestige….

As for the car crisis–
The last time in America a huge conglomerate like General Motors sank, we had the GM crisis that affected Flint Michigan, which also caused a sit down strike of residents and employees of GM during that time to create the labor union United Automobile Workers. However, in the 21st century, the power of labor unions no longer exists as they have been bought out by huge corporations or been taken over by conservatives that do not believe union workers should be treated fairly.

The bigger question is, how will Americans organize to fight the corporations that are stripping Americans of our money now? Will we organize together considering that the very idea of gathering has become an anathema in our society? If Americans do not represent themselves, than no one will. It is a shame to think that a country who is considered to be advanced in terms of legal ability and law-making, has cheated its own citizens of the their own rights, such as the right to their own money. The government reaps us with high taxes of 20% and then basically repackages it to corporations like Goldman Sachs on the basis that it somehow helps the poor consumer who just had to give that all up. There is no logic to this.

America’s Health Care System- which Obama supports

•November 16, 2008 • 9 Comments

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Note: This post is a more in depth analysis of the healthcare problem, which Kimchi talked about here.

Why is the health care system so bad in America? When and how did it start?  Here is a brief analysis:

This is the pay or die health care system used in America that is supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

The United States currently faces a crisis with the rising costs of health care but lacks a proper solution for its self-induced problem of inflating prices for profit. Because of the country’s emphasis on a capitalist free market economy, non profit hospitals that were once concerned about social services to provide help are now concerned with reaping benefits. Instead of viewing patients as diseased people in need of medical attention, doctors dehumanize them into becoming clients for their business. Such treatment of individuals is a result of the corporatization of Medicine that affected both the attitudes of physicians and the government in terms of restricting access to health care. There has been a shift in the power of who controls the medical system from physicians to businessmen that create policies to extract benefit from increasing the need and cost of medical services prescribed to a patient. In addition to the increase of services, because of modern technologies advancement, newer machines are more expensive, which places burden to patients who must compensate for those new gadgets. In effect, the weak structure of the American medical system which does not concern itself with public or preventative health but rather views health care as privilege has lead to a wide disparity amongst those insured and the mortality rates of those uninsured America must resolve the situation by altering the way businesses dominate the current medical model and the system by moving the power back to health care providers.

Since health care is not treated as an ordained right but an honor for a patient, the access of many citizens to it has been restricted. Critics argue that “our health care arrangements are not considered to be a national health care system in any sense” because it does not attempt to allow admission for services or restrict cost containment or help the quality of care received. (Budrys, 109) Federalist attempts at regulating medical coverage for the poor only resulted in the creation of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965. “The reasoning was that expansion would result in an increased availability of medical care or all who needed it.” (Budrys, 110) Though Medicaid is structured to be a “public health insurance program for people over sixty five plus some categories of younger disabled people” it requires the government to produce the money in order to put into existence such programs. In order to compensate for certain costs, Medicare, a different system not restricted to the poor was created.

“Medicare is a “Medicare has two parts: the hospital portion Part A which is free to enrollees, and the medical portion part B which covers doctors’ fees and requires enrollees to sign up. There is a monthly charge for Part B that is deducted from a person’s social security check. Medicare does not cover all costs. There is a copayment for medical care and no coverage for pharmaceuticals and many other necessities. Accordingly, many people buy additional insurance which as come to be called Med-gap. Private insurance companies sell Medi-gap policices but these are not like other privatized policies. There are ten different plans, labeled A-J., that vary in how much they cover and how much they cost.” (Budrys, 111)

The increasing complexity of the health care system in the United States has created a frenzy in which insurance companies will fund services only if they are profitable and will force a patient to pay for services HMO’s do not think require as much medical attention as perhaps a common disease like diabetes. Many suffer from this decision to include certain diseases because if there is no access to the required health care, many are forced to become bankrupt seeking treatment.

Instead of realizing that health care is a complete system that relies on the government’s support, politicians would rather not risk their popularity for a universal health system, and will only for the sake of speaking, promote a less expensive system. However, “US social policies have no concept much less accommodation for a total health care system. The development and possible effectiveness of social policy are ultimately a political process in which powerful interest groups vie to define their agenda.” (Freund, 254) Recipients of Medicaid are often stigmatized as being abusers of taxpayers money and labeled as “welfare cases” that detract people from wanting to use services that may help them. America’s avarice driven medical care, geared only toward profits “fits the ideal type of a laissez faire health care system only in that health care has become highly commodified, and the drive for profits is, indeed a central dynamic making it even more difficult to control or plan to meet the entire society’s needs.” (Freund,257) Not only does the country’s political ideology cause a problem for providing accessible health care, but because capitalism offers no concern for the populous it neglects to be apart of public or preventative medicine. Western medicine’s weight on the actual disease and not on preventing it “ is itself the political product of the relative muscle of various groups.” Attempts to set a broader agenda for the health of the nation are contested by powerful interest groups benefiting from the present pattern spending of medical care.” (Freund 254) America’s negligence toward creating an equal opportunist society, in which the total population is entitled to medical coverage, has made it susceptible to ravenous insurance companies.

There has been a shift in power from health care providers being in charge of administering medical provisions, to companies whose objective is to reap profit. It is a fact that within a globalized economy, any country “paying for citizen well being reduces corporate profit and international competitiveness.” (Freund, 259) However, even though all nations struggle with this problem to “provide for their citizens well being” the United States stands apart in that, it has never “had an adequate safety net to protect its citizens.” (Freund, 259) Since America is so careless toward its citizens, it almost promotes corporations to feel guiltless when taking power from nonprofit hospitals. This removal of power from physicians and its movement into the hands of business owners has created a “Doctor’s loss of autonomy and control of patients’ care” (Freund, 267). Previously, doctors who lived in communities would charge fees for their services accordingly to their patient’s income. If the patient could not pay, then the doctor would assume that a probono case would increase his respect within the neighborhood, but this social exchange of help for status has declined. (Freund, 264)

Instead, doctors have teamed with insurance companies who now pay their salaries and in turn are beginning to commit white collar crimes such as over billing of patients, perverse incentives and other forms of medical malpractice. The structure used to be that physicians were paid on a fee for service payment but “few contemporary doctor patients relationships are so simple” because majority of physicians are paid “through third parties such as the government or insurance companies.” (Freund, 267) Now physicians inject their fees with “perverse incentives” which are “built in financial encouragements to treat the patient inappropriately by increasing services, overprescribing medications and diagnostic tests, or to choose treatment sites according to physician rather than patient interests” which perpetuate malpractice toward patients which isn’t necessarily regulated. (Freund, 267) The next form of abuse by doctors is receiving “secondary income from the treatment” which happens when physicians own or have investments in a facility such as an imaging company or nursing home, they profit any time they refer a patient to one of those sites. (Freund, 267) While many clinics and hospitals are overpriced, many also reduce the quality of their care in order to gain even more capital. In an example regarding a dialysis center, it “maintained profits by reducing their operating costs, they substituted less skilled staff for RN’s, used dangerously obsolete dialysis equipment, and reused dialyzer fluids on multiple patients.” (Freund, 273) These criminal acts continue because rather than police and place fines on companies that mistreat clients, the government turns its face toward such acts because as long as insurance companies take the responsibility of providing coverage, they also have unrestricted freedom.

There is a need for better management that will not only identify malpractice against patients, but will challenge the current structure that physicians and businessmen have crafted. The fact that it was thought that only doctors could review one another has allowed American medical boards to relax in their system of authorizing disciplinary action against physicians. There is an idea that because only another doctor can comprehend the profession and challenges another one faces, there are no other qualified personnel to oversee the actions of physicians. This idolizing status given to physicians needs to be abandoned, for it is giving doctors special rights to abuse patients. The lack of regulating medical management, has lead to specialists claiming the right to overcharge.

“The oversupply of specialists has not led to competitive pricing. Indeed, rather then competition driving physicians’ fees down” the higher number of physicians has kept prices soaring because they claim the since each has fewer patients, they must compensate by having higher rates. (Freud, 269) Physicians are no longer heroes that society turns to for help, but have become charlatans, who base their prestige on self-righteousness and argue that because of their talents, they have the right to sell themselves at inflated prices to the public.

Other less obvious sources of the increasing health care costs is the rise of technology in producing new medication but also improved better software and machines. In effect, the “proliferation of sophisticated and expensive technologies has” been aimed at purchasing new expensive instruments which are not fully utilized. (Freund, 320) For instance an MRI machine may be purchased by several hospitals and only needed rarely could be shared within an area but since this reduces how the hospital appears; they have to overcharge in order to appear progressive, and as a better prospect for being a primary health care provider. With the rise of new technology, there has also been an increase in the type of drugs that are manufactured. Since insurance companies assume the right to set prices for services, as well as place time constraints on the length of time a physician can spend with a patient. Doctors are pressured to treat their patients with a quick cure, such as a pill that will eliminate symptoms, but not stop the illness necessarily. This has lead to an increase of expenditures for prescription drugs” which rose in “1999 by 19.2 percent, 17.3 % in 2000” only augments the suffering of patients who pay for services and drugs out of pocket but are not actually receiving proper treatment for their illness, and may need to return later.

There needs to be an awakening of the inequality within the medical system, that even with the enormous amount of spending the American government spends on health care, it is not managed as effectively as it should. There should be a standard by which services can be charged, and if it is going to be dependent on health insurance companies, they should not find methods of over pricing. Furthermore, there needs to be less discrimination in insurance companies for those with chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes; it should not be granted only to “healthy people”. There should be a reemergence of nonprofit hospitals that are created in order to assist in the general well being of the public and not for the profit of its staff. It is necessary to deconstruct the power of the current medical structure from being overtaken by entrepreneurs, for health and social services are not of capitalist nature. Though a nationalized health care system has its drawbacks, such as faulty method of administering priority to its patients, the American medical system needs to assume responsibility for its citizens. In a country that requires its workers to undertake any risk and treats them as slaves to the state, it is ironic that it is not willing to extend any concern for the protection of its assets. The power of health insurance companies needs to be restored to that of physicians or at least organizations that are concerned with an egalitarian society that promotes health coverage not as a privilege but as a right in order to erode social inequalities.

Obama’s Cabinet Sends a Dark Message

•November 13, 2008 • 1 Comment

Ever since Obama has been announced as America’s future president for January 2009, there has been this sigh of relief by Americans, but why? Americans have relaxed their standards and their ease is rather unsettling, especially since Obama has already taken actions that will be injurious to those seeking refuge under the new administration. Obama’s choice for his cabinet are rather controversial and just downright eerie in certain situations.

Perhaps the worst choice on his part for South Asians, Middle Eastern/Arab, etc would be Rahm Emanuel. For conservatives hoping to continue the status quo then Rahm is considered an excellent choice, but he does have a rather dark side to him

Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera’s senior Washington correspondent, said Emanuel was seen as a tough, hard nosed and highly partisan political operative known for his fiery temper with strong links to Israel.

He is the son of a Jerusalem-born doctor who was active in an underground Zionist organisation that fought the British in Palestine before the founding of Israel.

Emanuel represents the same militant force that has used American taxpayers’ money to fund unnecessary wars of dominance and attrition.  Please be aware that this not a statement against Jews, but a statement against those of the Zionist movement which is akin to the Nazi movement by Hitler. With figures like Emanuel in Obama’s cabinet, wars will not stop, instead more young American boys will be shipped out overseas to Iran, Pakistan, and who knows where-else? Emanuel has already made it clear he supports a mandatory military service for Americans between the ages of 18-25, and seeing that he does have a militant streak in him, American should be prepared for draft letters within the next couple of years. In 2004, the House declined a bill that would make it mandatory to serve in the miltary for two years, but it was introduced under the pretext that this would deter wealthy white Republicans from continuing these imperialist wars- since their protected kids like Jenna would have to serve as well.  It is a completely different story when a person like Rahm introduces such a bill– he is not looking to end wars but is aware that we have already stretched our military capacity and that we need more troops. He is only serving the interest of politicans like Cheney & Rumsefeld ontop and not caring about the lack of infrastructure and development that is crumbling day by day.  Just because Obama chose his cabinet, does not mean that Americans should allow him to do as he wishes, have standards, make your President serve you! Not the other way around!

I will have to continue more later..


Doctors Criticize Obama’s Health Plan

•November 12, 2008 • 2 Comments

A group of over 15,000 U.S. physicians has called on President-elect Barack Obama and the new Congress to “do the right thing” and enact a single-payer national health insurance plan, a system of public health care financing frequently characterized as “an improved Medicare for all.”

“Our country is hailing the remarkable and historic victory of Barack Obama and the mandate for change the electorate has awarded him,” said Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program.

“In large measure Sen. Obama’s victory and the victories of his allies in the House and Senate were propelled by mounting public worries about health care,” he said. Yet the prescription offered during the campaign by the president-elect and most Democratic policy makers – a hybrid of private health insurance plans and government subsidies – will not resolve the problems of our dangerously dysfunctional system.

“We’ve seen such hybrids repeatedly fail in state-based experiments over the past 20 years in Oregon, Minnesota, Washington and several other states, including Massachusetts, whose second go-round at incremental reform is already faltering,” Young said.

The only effective cure for our health care woes is to establish a single, publicly financed system, one that removes the inefficient, wasteful, for-profit private health insurance industry from the picture,” he said. “Single payer has a proven track record of success – Medicare being just one example – and is the only medically and fiscally responsible course of action to take.”

(Full Article at Political Affairs Magazine)

Despite what many of his supporters allege, and despite what the McCain campaign tried to depict, Obama has never supported single-payer healthcare—a system which a majority of American physicians and a majority of American citizens support. Instead, he supports costly, inefficient, and minuscule reforms to the current pay or die system. And it is indeed pay or die for the nearly 18,000 Americans who die each year from lack of healthcare and the countless more who go untreated or even undiagnosed.

For those who claim that there’s no support for this, I would direct them to HR 676 in the House (a proposal Obama, for all his rhetoric, has never introduced or even endorsed in the Senate), as well as the link in the previous paragraph showing a majority of American patients and physicians want a universal system.

For those who claim single-payer is expensive and/or less effective than the current for-profit system, it’s worth noting that the US currently pays twice as much as any other industrialized nation for healthcare (over $7,000 per capita) and that over one third of all healthcare dollars are spent in needless bureaucracy generated by the “efficient” private sector (source). In spite of all this the US still lags far behind countries like Canada and the UK (which have national care systems) when it comes to health issues such as life expectancy, equity and evenness of care, information technology, and overall quality of healthcare. And don’t even start with that long-discredited canard about “waiting times in Canada“. Recent studies show we have longer wait times, too.

For those who are still stuck in the McCarthy era and tremble at the very mention of “socialized” medicine, I would point out that single-payer is actually not “socialized” at all. “Single-payer” means public funding but private delievery. In other words, you get all the efficiency of the free market but the government picks up the tab (hence the label, “single-payer”). Really, it’s the best of both worlds.

For those who claim we can’t afford it, here’s a simple yet elegant solution: cut our defense spending (which currently is greater than the rest of the world combined) in half. Redirect that money into healthcare. It’s not like the obscene military budget is helping us “win” our multiple wars around the globe, and given whom our purported enemies are, there’s little use in boondoggles like the $2.5 billion Virginia class subarmine. Thanks to the mentality of the military-industrial complex, defense budget is designed to combat an enemy who has quite literally ceased to exist. We can re-direct this money toward the health of our own citizens without even needing to raise taxes.

Lastly, for those who are wondering what they can do about it, here are some basic steps you can take for healthcare equality:

* Talk to your Congressional Represenative(s). If they haven’t endorsed HR 676, let them know this is a serious issue.

* Join the November 5 Movement, which has taken the implementation of single-payer healthcare a primary concern.

False Hope and November 5th

•November 6, 2008 • 4 Comments

As expected Barack Obama has won the Presidential election in a landslide.The first African American President in US history has been elected.

And the fact that Obama is (half) African means nothing if it means a continuation of policies that marginalize poor and working class people, continued militarism around the globe, and continued subservience to a certain group of corporations rather than the American people. Obama is a false symbol of hope, because he only got where he is today by kowtowing to the white corporate elite. He is no more a harbinger of change than Condoleeza Rice.

That is an uncomfortable thing for people to acknowledge. But it is the truth. There was another African American candidate in this race, Cynthia McKinney. She addressed the issues more honestly and comprehensively than Barack Obama. But she didn’t make herself a tool of the white establishment and she didn’t have a multi-billion dollar campaign—so she was ignored. Just as every other Black candidate has been until now.

This is not progress for black Americans. As Malcolm X once said, “You don’t stick a knife into a man’s back nine inches, and then pull it out six inches and call it progress.” To pretend that Obama is pulling the knife out of our collective back is foolishness.

The American public, as always, is easily swayed by a slick advertising campaign. We can’t look beneath the surface. The fascination with Obama is entirely skin deep, because if people actually examined his policies and the implications of those policies they would see there is nothing that remotely resembles “change” in his platform.

So where do we go from here?

Rather than getting caught up in the blind adoration of Obama that is sweeping the world…

And rather than sulking because third party candidates received no coverage….

We, the American people, need to get to work.

We need to put pressure on Obama and pressure on Congress. We need to get organized, get aware, and get moving.

As mentioned in my previous post, the Nader/Gonzalez team is spearheading a social movement which aims at pressuring members of Congress to be accountable to we, the people. The tenative title for this group is The November 5 Movement. It seeks to establish congressional watchdogs in every district of the United States.

If we truly expect anything to change in this country, we have to get involved. Change is not going to come from some messianic figure, even if he is the first African American President. Change is not going to come if we go back to sitting on our hands after Nov. 4. Change will only happen when we put our blood, sweat, and tears into making it happen. We have to fight for it—as our forebearers fought for it before us.

Our goal is not change “we can believe in”. Human beings are gullible animals and will believe anything with the right packaging (just look at this election!). Our goal is change that we can actualize, change that is substanial. And it can only begin with each of us.

Nader/Gonzalez 2009

•November 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Something that I think few people are aware of is that Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez are not just collaborating as a Presidential ticket; they will actively continue their partnership to challenge the entrenched political and corporate elites and their militaristic, anti-democratic ambitions for the future.

A vote for Nader/Gonzalez is not a wasted vote, because it is a vote in favor of the progressive partnership that will continue past Nov. 4.