Monday, 31 August 2009

An award.

D of 60 going on 16 gave me this. Visit her wonderful site for the background. I once got an "Excellent Blogger" one and thought that was stretching credulity a bit far. I only had one blog - my Costa de la Luz Gardening - at that time and it hardly had mass appeal.

Now I need to come up with 7 interesting facts about myself and pass the prize on to others. So watch this space until I marshal all the stuff for the next phase.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

La Tomatina festival, Valencia

Ooo, this looks like fun - I'm just in the mood for this. Every last Wednesday in August this festival takes place in Buñol, Valencia. Special, largely inedible, tomatoes are grown in Extramadura province and shipped over to Valencia province when they're over-ripe. A canon sounds to signal the start of the fight, special goggles are worn, the minimum of clothing, and the tomatoes must be squished before throwing to minimise harm. After an hour a canon sounds again, it all stops and the streets are hosed down.

All the pictures show hundreds of young men involved. Do you think they'd let "the oldies" participate. Oh yes, I'd have some of that.....maybe next year.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Libyan Oil

There's been a great backlash about the decision to release the Lockerbie Bomber to go home to Libya to die. Here is an interesting article in The Times today dealing with the political and financial background to this decision. Whoever doubted that there was a hidden agenda behind all this will be sickened by the hypocrasy, lies and obfuscation if this article is to be believed.

It seems that while all the protest statements from the U.S. were being made, Senator John McCain " reported on Tuesday via Twitter, the instant internet messaging site, that he had met Gadaffi, whom he described as “an interesting man”. McCain was reported by the Libyan news agency to have praised Gadaffi’s peace-making efforts in Africa and to have called for expanded US ties with Libya. Exxon and Chevron, the American oil giants, are among companies vying for lucrative new exploration contracts".

The greed for oil, bloody oil, is responsible for so much death and suffering. Today, I've had it with the news. I'll go and tend to garden.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Health Care Reform, again

By tomorrow on Time goes By, HERE, older bloggers who have written about the Health Care Reform will have sent Ronni their links. Earlier in the week, I read Saul's and Darlene's contributions: both are clear sighted and have a lot of life experience and I can't do half as well in writing about the topic. I'm not a US citizen and my limited experience of private medicine was in 1947 before the inception of the NHS in U.K. when I was a child and my grandmother had to find a couple of shillings to pay for the doctor's consultation when I had a sore throat.

Here in Spain, shortly after I arrived and before organising myself in the Spanish free health service for pensioners, I paid monthly at a private health clinic , which offered free g.p. consultations and half price specialist treatment. Prescriptions, however, had to be paid for. I remember having to fork out 180 euros for 5 tablets for shingles and was horrified. Now I'm slotted into the Spanish system. Because I'm eligible for free care and prescriptions in the UK, my Government has transferred that eligibility to Spain and I'm now enjoying a free service again.

I wish it could be so for the thousands of US citizens who have no health care and I back Obama all the way in trying to introduce a system that will be of benefit to all. People with money will always have greater choice.

Here is an article from the Financial Times about the reality of all health care systems in the face of spiralling costs.

Home truths about rationing healthcare

By Philip Stephens

Published: August 17 2009 19:53 | Last updated: August 17 2009 19:53

The brouhaha in the US about healthcare has generated in Britain bemusement and irritation. The British are not shy of complaining about the National Health Service. But to swap free-at-the-point-of-delivery healthcare for the US private insurance system would beggar belief. As David Cameron’s Conservatives know to their cost, to hint at privatisation is to invite political immolation.

Beneath the transatlantic waves lies an awkward truth; one that politicians of all shapes and sizes – conservative and progressive, European and American – would prefer not to discuss. Healthcare is rationed everywhere.

Second opinions

Join an FT debate on health care in US and UK as some Obama oppponents use the NHS as an example of how not to go with reform

Some countries, of course, choose to spend more on health than others, just as they set different priorities for education or defence. Some prefer direct state provision, others more plural arrangements – compare France’s devolved not-for-profit insurance with Britain’s monolithic NHS. But all the models, the American included, share one characteristic. They ration access, while pretending otherwise. In Britain, the state imposes the limits; in the US the market does much the same job. What separates them are questions of efficiency and equity.

The NHS stands condemned by US President Barack Obama’s opponents as an instrument of state-sponsored euthanasia. Its socialised medicine, Americans are asked to believe, would have deprived, on grounds of age, Senator Edward Kennedy of treatment for a brain tumour.

Such charges are palpable nonsense, serving only to unite British politicians in defence of the distinctly imperfect NHS. The Tories have been put on the defensive. Mr Cameron has spent years insisting his party cherishes the NHS. Now one or two discordant Tory voices are heard cheering on Republican attacks on Mr Obama’s proposals.

Mr Cameron’s discomfort will not deter Republicans. As my colleague Edward Luce has written in these pages, US conservatives sense a chance to re-ignite America’s culture wars. Defeating health reform might derail the Obama presidency. Facts cannot be allowed to get in the way of such political calculation.

European criticism of the US model tends to focus on its inequities – the 40m-plus uninsured Americans denied access to anything but emergency care. The more startling fact is the truly enormous cost.

I say “US model”; in reality, there are two. How many of Mr Obama’s critics, I wonder, realise that the 8 per cent of national income US taxpayers stump up for Medicare and Medicaid is only a fraction less than the proportion of its income that Britain spends on the entire NHS? By this measure, US healthcare is as “socialised” as any in Europe.

Overall, the 16 per cent of national income the US pours into health is nearly twice the 8.9 per cent average of members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In per capita terms, as the OECD’s excellent Health Data 2009 shows, the gulf is wider. US spending was nearly $7,300 per head in 2007, against the OECD’s rich country average of just under $3,000.

What those Americans lucky enough to have top-flight private insurance get for this is care unmatched in terms of technological capabilities and expertise. The US leads the way in medical and pharmaceutical research. Facilities are modern, treatment is prompt.

The rationing is applied by the exclusions imposed by employers and insurance companies on all but the most expensive policies and, most obviously, by the fact that many working Americans simply cannot afford any insurance. To say everyone can get emergency care is little comfort to the diabetic or cancer sufferers denied ongoing care.

Yet all this money has failed to improve overall health outcomes. Life expectancy for Americans is a year below the rich country average of 79, while infant mortality is well above the average. Britain just beats the average on both scores.

True, there are other social and cultural factors to be taken into account. But that the world’s richest country can spend so much and still lag so far behind the best is an extraordinary indictment. On present trends, this hopelessly inefficient system will soon consume 20 per cent of national income, making it as unaffordable as it is inequitable. The challenge for all US politicians is surely to devise a system that spends less more efficiently and fairly.

Britain has a different problem. It needs to spend more. A sharp increase in NHS resources in recent years has eased the queues. But care is still restricted by waiting times or limited availability of some treatments. Given its demographics, Britain will need to devote a rising share of its income to health – at a time when a burgeoning government deficit requires public spending restraint. One way or another, patients are going to be asked to contribute directly to their care.

At least, though, the NHS is relatively efficient. Britain gets a lot more bang for its buck than the US. Rationing will always be unavoidable – on both sides of the Atlantic. And it is foolish to argue that state-run systems are always the most effective. But Mr Obama’s critics are throwing stones from a glass house in which the panes are already broken.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Health Care.

I've just watched the BBC news with pictures of the hysteria surrounding the reforms to U.S. health care: faces, body language, slogans - all filled with such hate. I just do not understand that people can turn their backs and ignore the fact that 46 million of the population have no health care coverage, and more have less coverage than is adequate.

It's true that those European countries with a universal health service are struggling with problems of how to fund the system. More and more people are living longer: there are such advances in medical technology, the high cost of pharmaceuticals, not to mention a mind-set of some who believe that whatever they want they should have for free, be it cosmetic surgery, IVF, gastric bands to reduce weight etc. It's difficult for any Government to keep up with demand but at least people do get treatment and care without the worry of being turned away because of an inability to pay.

I was reminded this morning of how fortunate I was to have grown up in a national health system in UK. My country has transferred my right to have free treatment and prescriptions to my adopted country, Spain so I have my medication, routine blood tests and ECG for my 2 year old condition, all without it costing a centimo. OK, I worked for 40-odd years and paid into the system (National Insurance) which guaranteed me a retirement pension at aged 60 and free health care and, boy, am I glad of it now at an age where I no longer work for my living.

Thursday, 13 August 2009


I've got my dander up again about American Politics: the rabid Right through lies, misinformation and praying on ignorance, have been trying to scupper any reform. They are also trying to discredit the UK's National Health Service to try and add weight to their argument against "socialised health care" . Here is an article from BBC news:

BBC article on US attack on NHS

Bloggers debate British healthcare

As the US healthcare debate hots up during Congress's summer recess, anti-reform campaigners have been directing criticisms across the Atlantic at the UK healthcare system.

The most recent row erupted after an editorial at the Investors Business Daily (IBD) launched an attack on the British National Health Service (NHS), as a warning against what could happen if the US adopted such a model.

"The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof are legendary," the article said. "The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror movie script."

The article's author went on to assert that "people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman quickly pointed out, Prof Hawking was born in the UK, and has lived and worked there for his entire life.

And UK newspapers the Guardian and Daily Telegraph reported Prof Hawking as saying that he "wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS".

Basic stupidity

Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein said the IBD article was an example of conservatives "lying" about healthcare.

"It's not just that they didn't know that Stephen Hawking was born in England. It's that the underlying point was wrong, as you'll note from the continued existence of Stephen Hawking. They didn't choose an unfortunate example for an accurate point. They simply lied."

The New Republic's Jason Zengerle - while endorsing Mr Klein's objections to the IBD's article - was not convinced that the article's author should be given the credit for a conscious lie.

"The point the IBD writer was trying to make would have at least been theoretically plausible if, as the writer believed, Hawking was not British," Mr Zengerle wrote.

It's worth emphasizing, for those who remain confused and misled, that Democratic reform proposals would not create a British system

Steve Benen
Washington Monthly

"I'm just reluctant to credit the IBD writer with the sufficient smarts to concoct such a lie. Seems like basic stupidity is the easier explanation here."

The IBD's fundamental charge was that President Obama's healthcare plans would lead to the rationing of healthcare, and that rationing is a feature of the British system.

This point was echoed by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin , who warned that "the effects of socialised medicine in Britain - engineered by government-run cost-cutting panels on which Obamacare would be modelled - continue to wreak havoc on the elderly and infirm."

In making this point, Ms Malkin was explicitly re-affirming the assertion made by former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, that Mr Obama wanted to create a "death panel" to decide whether the elderly or disabled are "worthy of health care".

Top topic

Liberal bloggers in the US have rejected the accusations made by these prominent conservatives.

Washington Monthly's Steve Benen argued that the healthcare plans put forward by Mr Obama and his fellow Democrats bore no resemblance to the UK system.

"It's worth emphasizing, for those who remain confused and misled, that Democratic reform proposals would not create a British system. The comparison doesn't even make sense in any substantive way, and the very premise of the IBD attack, which has been widely parroted by the far-right, reflects a fundamental lack of intellectual honesty and seriousness."

Matthew Yglesias, blogger for the liberal Centre for American Progress, lamented the fact that Mr Obama was not planning to follow the British example.

"The NHS is a pretty great model and the British are on to something... if you were actually able to get British levels of care for British price levels [in the US] you could redirect [the savings] to trying to improve the social circumstances of the poor, trying to reduce exposure to health hazards, and building infrastructure (trains, sidewalks, bike paths, even the dread parks) suited to less sedentary lifestyles. We'd be much better off that way."

The American conservatives' criticisms of the NHS, and an appearance by British Conservative MEP Dan Hannan on Fox News, in which he bemoaned the state of healthcare in the UK, has prompted thousands of British Twitter users to rush to its defence.

By early Wednesday evening UK time, the #WeLoveTheNHS hashtag had become one of the top trending topics on the global site.

Some Twitter users, like Luke Richards, offered general words of support.

"I'm proud of our health service. It's one of this country's best achievements of the past century," he wrote.

Others, like Claire Thompson of Reading, highlighted the life-saving treatment that they or their friends and relatives have received.

"My father had heart surgery last year, and my husband's life was saved after a fall - not perfect, but great when it matters," she tweeted.

Most seemed to reflect the feeling that despite its shortcomings, the British remain defiantly proud of the health service in the face of transatlantic criticism.

Matthew Yglesias, above, makes a very good point if you were actually able to get British levels of care for British price levels [in the US] you could redirect [the savings] to trying to improve the social circumstances of the poor.

Maybe even something would be done about the US appalling infant mortality rate.

Ronni Bennett on Time Goes By, HERE is calling all elder bloggers to post something on 20th August to dispel the lies and misinformation circulating. Do read her article and add you weight if you agree.