Thursday, August 20, 2009

My (brief) experience with NHS

With all of this discussion raging on in the US about whether health care is a right or a Nazi-esque socialist plot, a lot has been thrown about concerning examples of socialized medicine, such as Canada or the UK.

Today I got to see first hand what the NHS is like. I've been home sick with some odd flu for the last few days, and my office recommended that I go to the doctor to make sure it's not swine flu. So I went to the walk-in clinic at the Royal London Hospital, right near my flat.

Time from entering until leaving the building: less than 20 minutes.

Upon walking in, they asked me for my name, date of birth, postal code, and address. Nothing further. I then gave my symptoms and joined a quite full waiting room. Expecting it would take at least 45 minutes, I sat down to read my book. I noticed that people were frequently called and people frequently left. About 10 minutes after sitting down, my name was called and I met the nurse.

Obviously, since it wasn't swine flu, and since it was clearly viral, there was nothing they could do for me, and told me straight up. Consultation: 3 minutes with a nurse.

I must say, A+ for speediness at a walk-in clinic during lunch-hour. And since it's a flu - it's not like they gave me insufficient treatment - they told me to take paracetamol, drink lots of fluids, and the like.

So far so good. I'm liking the socialized medicine. Still, let's hope I don't have too many further opportunities to test out the NHS.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Back yet again

In the end, I always come back.

I guess I was over-optimistic. I had hoped that somehow Obama's presidency would marginalize the right-wing.

Unfortunately, it just made them louder, scarier, and more crazy.

As long as lies are presented as facts, as long as irrationality gains enough current to riddle the US airwaves, every voice to the contrary helps. And so I'm back, to join the chorus of those who are proud of the US today, happy to see us refuting policies of the last 8 years, and hopeful that things can change for the better.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

So much...

Not blogging for over a week means that so much has happened that it's really quite impossible to address it all. Obama meeting Bush? Biden meeting Cheney? Oh, to have been a fly on the wall, especially at the latter. After all, Biden did call Cheney "the most dangerous vice-president we've had" in US history. Priceless...

Add to that a dash of Palin news interviews, a sprinkle of Ted Stevens falling behind in the Senate race, Al Franken still in the running for Senate seat, and more than a bit of transition politics, and it's a political funfest the likes of which I haven't seen in ages.

Oh, and don't forget a healthy dose of financial crisis, some 'oh my god the sky is falling' panic surrounding the auto industry and stock prices globally, and a smattering of 'how the holy hell is Obama expected to fix the world?' Because really, it seems like a lot of people are putting a lot of hope into Obama. And yes, hope has been one of his clearest messages, but not that kind of hope. We're seeing some really unrealistic unicorns and rainbows hope. Let's have some more sensible hope - remember his election night speech?

So yes, a week in the news these days is like a lifetime in the best. I guess the old Chinese curse applies: may you live in interesting times. Still, wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


While reading the news today, I came across this piece online - I found the little poem at the end to be particularly moving and it made me reflect a little on what just happened back home.

It feels really great to have helped make history. And I think people my age forget how bad things were not so long ago.

I was reminded the other day that the landmark Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia (which is a staple of constitutional law classes) came down in 1967. Obama was something like 6 years old at the time.

In Loving v. Virginia, the lower courts had found that a white woman married to a black man in Virginia was violating the law against interracial marriage. The Supreme Court finally overturned it, finding the interracial marriage law to be unconstitutional, but not before the couple in question went through hell to be together.

In 1967, my parents were both in their early 20s.

The lesson to be learned is that change can only happen on a generational level, and that it can only happen through laws that force long-held prejudices to end. The civil rights movement was the most powerful force for equality that this country ever saw, and it's amazing that it only took a generation to create a body of youth for whom race really doesn't matter.

If this could be done in the US, a nation that not so long ago had slavery, it can be done elsewhere. And the solution is integration of education. Take the Roma in hungary for instance - Hungarians have to be legally forced to share classrooms with Roma children without recourse to newly formed de facto segregated private schools. And in a generation, maybe the Roma won't be second class citizens anymore.

That is the hope that America was meant to bring to the world. That's what makes other countries look up to us. Because really, nothing is ever impossible, and we just showed the world. Not just with an electoral victory, but with people taking to the streets all across the country, celebrating a victory that they were personally invested in, and that meant the promise of change, in all of its guises.

The exuberance shown, from Pennsylvania Avenue, to the streets of Ann Arbor, to the neighborhoods of cities across America tells us something else. Maybe this generation didn't protest like was done in the 1960s. Maybe no one confronted police, yelled to be heard and marched in the streets. But maybe this generation was right. By using the democratic process to effect change, the American people showed the world that yes, we are still a great force for good, for change, and for democracy. Our system isn't quite as broken as was feared. And on Tuesday night we proved it. Without violence and without protests. Even in Chicago.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Did!

What has epitomized Obama's campaign from beginning to end is its feeling of can-do - a feeling that each individual can make a difference. Yes we can! embodies this feeling, and is the slogan that sent the powerful message to America and to the world that united, Americans of many different persuasions can come together and help start the process of change.

Obama's acceptance speech last night indicated his understanding that this only marks the beginning. You'd have to be naive to think this financial crisis is going to fix itself. And that's just the most obviously pressing crisis right now. The first step has been taken.

Today I felt myself stand noticeably straighter. Noticeably prouder. In addition to seeing the first candidate in my life win who I genuinely support, believe in and wanted to win (and not just because he wasn't the other guy), there's a sense of having made history. It's a little easier to say to the world, hey, you could learn something from us - we've still got what it takes.

On a local level, my state voted to legalize medical marijuana and to allow stem cell research (my dad worked on the stem cell research proposal). Really delighted about both of those.

The one dark cloud over this election cycle is gay marriage. It seems inconceivable that so many Americans are opposed to allowing two people who love each other to get married in the courthouse. No one's trying to get the Catholic church to marry gay couples, and I think the deliberate conflation between civil and religious marriage is what's getting people riled up. Arkansas also decided to ban adoption by gay couples, another blow to gay rights.

I'm still coming to grips with the reality that Obama is going to be my next President. It was at about 9 pm, Geneva time yesterday, when I finally realized that Obama was going to win this. Since then, I've been floating around on cloud 9. Months of agonizing and obsessively reading political blogs will be replaced by just obsessively reading political blogs.

*happy sigh*

Monday, November 03, 2008

Yes We Can!

Four years ago, almost to the day, I consoled myself after election day by stating that at least the people went out and voted, and so it didn't really matter who had won as long as people were participating in the democratic process.

Four years later, I cannot say the same.

It does matter who wins. It matters a lot. There is a clear right choice in this election, and his name is Barack Obama.

Tomorrow, when you go out and vote, think about how you want the world to be. Think about how much your freedoms mean to you - not the freedom not to be taxed, but the real freedoms - the freedom to choose your partner, your religion, your way of life, and your opinions and the freedom to make those opinions heard.

Along one path lies darkness, ignorance, fear and hatred. Along another path lies a difficult road, not paved with rainbows and sunshine, but one in which we remain true to the vision of our founding fathers and uphold the Constitution, and maybe regain some dignity and hope along the way.

For 8 years we have been slapped in the face by the jingoistic nationalism of those calling themselves patriotic and denying us the right to call ourselves such. We have been accused of wanting to destroy the Constitution, destroy the America envisioned by the founding fathers, destroy the very fabric of democracy. Our military service has been slandered when we have dared to speak up against foolish actions by our leaders. Our sacrifices to our country have been minimized. For 8 years, we have been marginalized, mocked, and belittled. And at no time more so than during this campaign.

It is time we spoke. We are the majority. We want change. And we will be heard.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama the Professor

The latest attack on Obama by Palin has focused on his connections to a radical professor. Not Bill Ayers this time, but the even more nefariously terroristic sounding Rashid Khalidi.

The connection is even more tenuous than the Ayers-Obama link, founded largely on Obama's having attended a farewell dinner for Khalidi when he was leaving U of Chicago for Columbia University. At this dinner, a poem was apparently read by a Palestinian-American girl that criticized the US and accused the Israeli government of terrorism for its treatment of Palestinians. Additionally, the GOP has accused Khalidi of having been a PLO spokesman, an accusation Khalidi denies.


So Obama is linked not only to domestic terrorists but to Palestinian terrorists? Because he happened to be a colleague of a man whose only act of 'terrorism' is to be an outspoken supporter of an oppressed people and a fierce critic of US policy vis-a-vis Israel? God forbid anyone Obama ever met should criticize Israel because clearly that makes him, by association, a terrorist. No doubt Prof. Khalidi's un-American sounding name makes him an even scarier spectre than Ayers, and everyone knows that the one thing you can never ever do in America, freedom of speech be damned, is to criticize Israel, a foreign country that is often treated, particularly on the campaign trail, as our 51st state.

Khalidi's response to this is admirable, not least for his seeming reference to Bob Dylan: "I am not speaking to the media at this time, and certainly not until this idiot wind passes."

The real story in the McCain campaign's accusations is the effect they will have on the individuals 'linked' to Obama. Ayers, admittedly a former domestic terrorist, has turned his life around and is a highly respected professor. Khalidi, not a terrorist of any sort, is also a well-respected professor. Now the whole country knows their names, and not in any good sense. How many threats and piece of hate mail will these men receive for having their names dragged in the mud by the McCain campaign? What the hell did they do to deserve it, particularly Khalidi whose only crime seems to be his name and his stance on Palestine?

It is clear that the Republicans are anti-intellectual. Radicals lurk in our universities, secretly spreading un-American propaganda to our youth. Bastions of elitism, universities are the opposite of the Real America, where leaders are blindly followed and all that is not conservative and Christian is evil. There is no place for debate or for rational thought in today's Republican party. The campaign might as well just come out and accuse Obama directly of being a terrorist for having taught constitutional law (a hippy terrorist subject that the Republicans have done their best to ignore for the last 8 years) at U of Chicago.