A tale of two cancers: One sister in Canada, the other in the USA.

At the age of 56, Catherine Gordon found out she had breast cancer. A long deferred mammogram revealed two tumors, 6 centimeters long together. She underwent chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumors.

A year later, her sister Karen who lives in the USA was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Karen’s tumors were smaller, but she also had surgery to remove them.

And here’s where it gets insane. Catherine lives in Canada, and did not have to worry about cost. In her words, she “could focus on getting better”.

Karen, unfortunately, lives in the USA, so she could not just focus on getting better:

And she had to contend with American-style billing. “Just as I was getting ready to head to the operating room, a tall man in a nice suit came in and told us he had to have a cheque before they would go ahead. ‘It’s our new policy because people aren’t paying their bills.’ We paid him, of course, but it seemed absolutely outrageous — especially when you’re frightened and sick.” […]

One morning, she pulled out a file folder with her medical bills as we were drinking our coffee. As I flipped through the three-inch pile of papers, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She’d been to just two hospitals and three clinics throughout her treatment, but there were invoices from almost 50 different service providers — pathologists, imaging centres, radiologists, plastic surgeons, anesthesia services, blood labs — people she didn’t know, asking for money for services she’d never heard of.

In Ontario, we don’t see any bills, so the costs are invisible. In the United States, the health-care system leaves the administration in the hands of the patient. “It’s a huge source of frustration and aggravation,” Karen told me. “The time and effort you have to put into trying to understand who’s billing you and why, and the stress of having to negotiate with suppliers and the insurance company — all while you’re in crisis mode and trying to deal with getting well — is a real hardship. I have to question everything, or I end up paying more than I owe. Can you imagine if you didn’t speak English well? Or if you were totally incapacitated by your illness and didn’t have help?”

— www.ucobserver.org/…

Well, we here know the rest of this story.

The question we need to ask ourselves is why?

Why are we putting our sick brothers and sisters through the meat-grinder which is the American health-care “system”?

Why do we have a “system” where people have no idea whether a trip to the hospital will leave them bakrupt, even when they have insurance?

Why do they have to argue with insurers, hospitals and doctors over treatment costs and fees?

Why are we sapping the energy of doctors and patients by making them deal with insurers incentivised to deny coverage?

Why are we destroying the patient-doctor relationship by forcing doctors to ask payments before treating people?

Why do we have a “system” where hospitals publish fictitious prices which are exorbitant and scare people away?

Why do millions of Americans, living in the richest country in the world go into crushing debt and sometimes bankruptcy because they got sick?

Why don’t we have a system where people can just “focus on getting better”?

Why don’t we have Medicare For All?

 

Did Jared just secure his family’s real-estate empire by facilitating a palace coup in Saudi Arabia?

I’ve written previously about the Kushner family’s attempts to shore up their precarious finances by extorting fees from low-income tenants and selling green-cards to Chinese investors. As Bloomberg reported in August, the Kushners are desperately seeking cash to save their heavily-mortgaged Manhattan skyscraper as balloon payments come due over the next two years.

Last week, Kushner took an unannounced trip to KSA:

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner returned home Saturday from an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia — his third trip to the country this year.

Kushner left Washington, D.C., via commercial airline on Wednesday for the trip, which was not announced to the public, a White House official told POLITICO. He traveled separately from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who led a delegation to Riyadh last week to focus on combating terrorist financing. […]

The White House official would not say who Kushner met with in Saudi Arabia. But he has cultivated a relationship with the crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, who, like Kushner, is in his 30s. — www.politico.com/…

Saudi Arabia has, for the past two years, been waging a brutal bombing campaign against Yemen which has caused thousands of civilian deaths. This war is widely believed to be Mohammed Bin Salman’s [MBS] project, though the war is broadly supported in Saudi Arabia across factions. For example, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal promised to reward Saudi air force pilots with Bentleys when they returned from bombing raids.

Sadly, our government has actively supported the Saudi war in Yemen, providing weapons (including cluster bombs) and operational support. Hundreds of children have been killed by these weapons, thousands have lost limbs. Many of you saw the heart-rending pictures of a young toddler who had lost four of her fingers, staring at the intact hand on her doll.

Then yesterday, the crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, engineered a palace coup, arresting dozens of his own uncles and cousins.

midnight blitz of arrests ordered by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia over the weekend has ensnared dozens of its most influential figures, including 11 of his royal cousins, in what by Sunday appeared to be the most sweeping transformation in the kingdom’s governance for more than eight decades.

The arrests, ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman without formal charges or any legal process, were presented as a crackdown on corruption. They caught both the kingdom’s richest investor, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and the most potent remaining rival to the crown prince’s power: Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, a favored son of the late King Abdullah. — www.nytimes.com/…

Another prince died along with several officials as his helicopter crashed near the Yemeni border.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal had sparred with Trump during and after the election. His Kingdom Holding Company is a major investor in Twitter and Apple. He was one of the people arrested.

“The king and crown prince’s recent public statements regarding the need to build a moderate, peaceful and tolerant region are essential to ensuring a hopeful future for the Saudi people, to curtailing terrorist funding, and to defeating radical ideology — once and for all — so the world can be safe from its evil,” the White House said in the statement.

The White House statement made no mention of the scores of arrests, including that of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor who has held stakes in an array of Western companies, including the News Corporation, Citigroup and Twitter. Prince Mohammed, who has already sidelined rivals to the throne, is viewed as the mastermind behind the crackdown.

Prince Alwaleed sparred with Mr. Trump on Twitter during the presidential election, referring to him as a “disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.” Mr. Trump fired back, also on Twitter, that he was a “dopey prince” trying to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money.” — www.nytimes.com/…

If Kushner was in Saudi Arabia to bless the impending palace coup by MBS, then the Trumps and Kushners can expect rich rewards in the years to come. If MBS can ascend to the throne and diminish the competition, he will control a state-owned oil company that is valued at $2 Trillion and about to go public this year. Yes, that’s Trillion with a T.

Even without the money raised from an IPO, Saudi Aramco produced almost 4 billion barrels of crude oil in 2016. At $50 a barrel, that’s $200 billion in sales each year, the vast majority of it profit. Those numbers are staggering. Saudi Aramco’s annual profits exceed the total net worth of the richest person in the world.

Let’s just say that becoming the King of Saudi Arabia makes you an extremely wealthy person. It makes you even wealthier if you can imprison some of your relatives and confiscate their assets in a “anti-corruption drive”.

And when you have consolidated all this power and wealth, you aren’t going to forget the friends who helped you make it happen will you? Friends with last names like Kushner and Trump? What’s a $5 billion loan or a $10 billion construction contract among friends?

So what can you do as the Trump/Kushner kleptocracy tries to milk every dollar it can out of its days in elected office? You can get out and vote. And you can help get out the vote. I’ve been doing that every day this week and have multiple people tell me they are thankful for the reminder because they didn’t know there was an election on Tuesday, November 7.

Is every single person in the Trump administration a white supremacist?

Here’s exhibit A:

White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly told other members of the Trump administration that if it were up to him the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. would be between zero and one. — thehill.com/…

Many of the 85,000 refugees we accepted in 2016 were fleeing wars we either started or helped fuel with weapons. John Kelly has participated in many of these wars, for several decades. He has no sympathy for the victims of the foreign wars he’s actively participated in (most of these victims are black or brown). He also seems to have very little sympathy for the victims of other atrocities, oh, I don’t know, like slavery:

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly told Ingraham. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days.  Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.” — www.washingtonpost.com/…

Let’s get to the obvious. Robert E. Lee was not an honorable man. His father-in-law had promised manumission upon his death to 150 persons he held in slavery. When he died, they fell into Lee’s hands. Lee reneged and told these 150 people they would stay enslaved for another 5 years. The Civil War intervened. When some escaped after he violated the promise made to them, Lee had them captured and tortured.

So no, Lee was not an “honorable man”. Unless, of course, you believe keeping people in slavery and torturing them is honorable.

And let’s be clear, no “compromise” was possible with the slave-owners. There wasn’t even an opportunity for compromise, because the Southern state started the Civil War as soon as Lincoln won the election of 1860.  That’s right, the war wasn’t begun because of the emancipation proclamation. Nope, the slave states of the south rebelled and fired the first shots at the prospect of Lincoln’s mere inauguration. This should not even need to be said, but there’s an all-out assault on truth in this country in many areas, so it does.

The mere fact that a person opposed to the expansion of slavery in the new Western territories was elected drove slave states to secede from the union and launch a violent, traitorous rebellion. What compromise does Kelly think would have been possible with these people? And keep in mind that any such compromise would have kept millions of Americans in bondage for several years, perhaps decades. Millions would have been subjected to torture and rape by their “owners”. Who would have paid the price of this compromise with their bodies and souls? Not people who look like John Kelly that’s for damn sure.

Hell, even after they lost the war, Southern states flagrantly violated the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. They disenfranchised black citizens and continued a reign of terror under the Jim Crow regime. Is this the kind of “honor” and “compromise” John Kelly was thinking of?

For a hundred years, Southern senators prevented the passage of any Civil Rights bill. Their political descendants scorch the earth when there’s a proposal to raise the estate tax. If they fight tooth and nail over the prospect of losing property after their dead, imagine what their great-grandfathers would have done if faced with the prospect of losing their “property” while alive.

But we don’t have to imagine, we know. We know that the South launched the bloodiest war in American history simply because it was clear that eventually, they would have to give up slavery.

We also know now that John Kelly is either a white supremacist, or an apologist for white supremacy.

—  @subirgrewal

30% of active military say white nationalism is a big national security threat, more than Syria.

Nearly one in four troops polled say they have seen examples of white nationalism among their fellow service members, and troops rate it as a larger national security threat than Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new Military Times poll. […]

Concerns about white nationalist groups were more pronounced among minorities in the ranks. Nearly 42 percent of non-white troops who responded to the survey said they have personally experienced examples of white nationalism in the military, versus about 18 percent of white service members.

When asked whether white nationalists pose a threat to national security, 30 percent of respondents labeled it a significant danger, more than many international hot spots, like Syria (27 percent), Pakistan (25 percent), Afghanistan (22 percent) and Iraq (17 percent). — www.militarytimes.com/…

It’s stunning that almost half of non-white troops say they’ve personally run across a white nationalist in the military. The survey was not about racism and it was conducted about a month after Charlottesville. We’re talking about neo-Nazis and KKK here.

 

The survey also asked a number of questions on Trump, and here we see a divide among enlisted personnel and officers.

Overall, about 44 percent of all troops surveyed in the Military Times poll have a favorable view of Trump, while roughly 40 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. That’s a stark contrast to opinion polls of the general public, which have shown Trump’s popularity at less than 40 percent and an unfavorable rating as high as 56 percent.

Yet, the poll of more than 1,100 active-duty troops, conducted in September, shows a deep divide over service members’ opinions of the commander in chief, whose first nine months in office have been marked by military policies that have drawn both praise and concern from Pentagon leaders.

While almost 48 percent of enlisted troops approve of Trump, only about 30 percent of officers say the same, the poll shows. — www.militarytimes.com/…

A Nobel Peace Prize recipient is complicit in pogroms and ethnic cleansing.

The Myanmar military, with the active encouragement of its government has led a campaign of brutal mass killings, rape and displacement against the Rohingya people of Rakhine state. Hundreds of thousands have fled across the border to Bangladesh, in what is now considered to be the fastest  mass displacement of people since Rwanda:

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The ethnic cleansing of Muslim Rohingya peoples from Rakhine state has destroyed thousands of lives, and displaced hundreds of thousands. Children have been directly impacted by the violence, with hundreds dying while fleeing the violence, and many more killed by Myanmar troops. This video from Unicef is heart-breaking, and there has been much, much worse violence inflicted on young children.

 

The systematic ethnic cleansing has also destroyed reputations.

Myanmar prime-minister/state-counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi will no longer be remembered as a former political prisoner and advocate for democracy. That legacy has been destroyed, and rightfully so.

From this point on, she will be remembered as yet another politician who sought power by dehumanizing people and stoking pogroms. Ms. Suu Kyi is not merely silent in the face of widespread ethnic cleansing led by her army. She has actively defended those committing these atrocities by claiming “terrorists” are misinforming the world about the mass killings of Rohingya.

The Rohingya have faced discrimination in Myanmar for decades, with several cycles of violence directed at them by the military. Most Rohingya supported Suu Kyi’s NLD party in elections. Many believed a government led by Aung San Suu Kyi would protect their rights. They have been firmly disabused of that notion.

He dreamed she would bravely face down the military and welcome the Rohingya back to their homes as citizens.

The first part came true. But sitting in a decrepit shack in the refu­gee camp in Bangladesh where he now expects to live the rest of his days, he had only disappointment for Suu Kyi.

“She’s made a deal with the devil,” he said. — www.washingtonpost.com/…

There has been widespread condemnation of her government’s complicity in these atrocities. In response, Aung San Suu Kyi’s ministers have taken to stoking anger at relief agencies and aid workers.

Social media messaging has driven much of the rage in Myanmar. Though widespread access to cellphones only started a few years ago, mobile penetration is now about 90 percent. For many people, Facebook is their only source of news, and they have little experience in sifting fake news from credible reporting.

One widely shared message on Facebook, from a spokesman for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s office, emphasized that biscuits from the World Food Program, a United Nations agency, had been found at a Rohingya militant training camp. The United Nations called the post “irresponsible.”

The Myanmar government, however, insists the public needs to be guided.

“We do something that we call educating the people,” said U Pe Myint, the nation’s information minister. He acknowledged, “It looks rather like indoctrination, like in an authoritarian or totalitarian state.”

— www.nytimes.com/…

The NY Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman reported on the results of this indoctrination:

In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped.

By the time the day was over, she was running through a field naked and covered in blood. Alone, she had lost her son, her mother, her two sisters and her younger brother, all wiped out in front of her eyes, she says. — www.nytimes.com/…

Such violence and persecution does not happen in a vacuum, they require sustained dehumanization supported by major institutions in a society. These conditions have existed in Myanmar for decades. The military, state and religious figures have conspired to demonize and dehumanize Rohingya peoples over several years. Reuters reported on one of the most prominent anti-Rohingya Buddhist monks four years ago:

The Buddhist extremist movement in Myanmar, known as 969, portrays itself as a grassroots creed.  Its chief proponent, a monk named Wirathu, was once jailed by the former military junta for anti-Muslim violence and once called himself the “Burmese bin Laden.”

But a Reuters examination traces 969’s origins to an official in the dictatorship that once ran Myanmar, and which is the direct predecessor of today’s reformist government. The 969 movement now enjoys support from senior government officials, establishment monks and even some members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Wirathu urges Buddhists to boycott Muslim shops and shun interfaith marriages. He calls mosques “enemy bases.” Among his admirers: Myanmar’s minister of religious affairs.

— www.reuters.com/…

Earlier today, the US government finally announced it would be stopping aid to Myanmar’s military. The EU is preparing to do the same. Indian PM Narendra Modi reportedly told Suu Kyi she risked destroying her reputation over the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.  India has received tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Hundreds of thousands have fled to camps in Bangladesh. Back in March, Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution on Myanmar.

“Person who was captured” in Vietnam throws shade at man who suffered painful “bone spurs”.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. During the campaign, Donald Trump said “I like people who weren’t captured” when questioned about McCain’s service during Vietnam. The full quote:

“He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” — Donald Trump, July 2015

McCain was a navy pilot, captured when his plane was shot down in Vietnam. His father was a high-ranking admiral, and McCain was offered release. He refused the offer since other US servicemen who had been imprisoned for longer would have remained behind.

Trump avoided serving for the entire duration of the war. He got five draft deferments, including one for “bone spurs” which he now says were “temporary”. This painful condition does not prevent him from golfing every other day.

Anyway, John McCain was interviewed about Vietnam, and he had this to say.

For those who can’t watch the video, McCain says:

One aspect of the conflict that by the way I will never, ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong, that is wrong, if we’re going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.

Here’s the full response to the question.

PS. Now, I’m not always the biggest fan of John McCain. He often has the right words. Yet equally often, he will demur when it comes to acting on them.

But, on this one, I’m behind him. Also, I felt I had to explain his PoW experience because there are literally people out there who believe the Hanoi Hilton was a hotel:

IMG_0741-620x498.jpg

DNC re-org raises questions about party unity and buries Obama rule on lobbyists.

In 2016, the DNC swept away the “Obama rule”, which had previously disallowed donations from lobbyists.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has dismantled the last of its prohibitions on receiving donations from lobbyists and political action committees.

The ban has been in place since 2008, when President Obama became the party’s presumptive nominee. — thehill.com/…

This week, we’ve moved further away from those principles as several prominent lobbyists were appointed or re-appointed to at-large positions. More significantly, some (like Ickes) gained seats on the executive and rules committees where they will wield power over rules governing future elections.

The appointment of active corporate lobbyists as at-large members of the 447-member Democratic National Committee has aroused controversy in the past.

“I will register my customary objections” to the selection of at-large members, said Christine Pelosi, a California-based vice-chair of the DNC who in February authored a proposal to bar the appointment of corporate lobbyists as superdelegates. The national committee voted down her proposal.

— www.bloomberg.com/…

The at-large members chosen by Perez include Harold Ickes, a lobbyist for a nuclear energy company; Manny Ortiz, a lobbyist for Citigroup; Joanne Dowdell, a lobbyist for News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News; and Jaime Harrison, a former lobbyist for coal companies, big banks, and tobacco companies.

— theintercept.com/…

News Corp is the Rupert Murdoch company which owns Fox News.

“The Democratic Party will only succeed in stopping Trump and the Republicans in Congress if it is a boldly progressive, multiracial, populist party. So it’s troubling to see the DNC seem to purge people from its leadership simply because they supported the progressive candidacy of Keith Ellison for chair,” said Joe Dinkin, spokesman for the Working Families Party. “For the sake of the nation, the DNC should reverse course, spend less time courting big donors, and more time bringing progressives voices into the party, instead of silencing them.”

— theintercept.com/…

Several former committee members who supported Keith Ellison’s candidacy as DNC president were “reshuffled” out of their roles. This includes Alice Germond, who had previously served as the party secretary for over 10 years.

Germond has been on the DNC since the 1980s and was a vocal backer of Ellison for DNC chairman.

“It is quite unusual for a former party officer who has been serving on the DNC for forever to just be left out in the cold without even a call from the chairman,” Germond said. “So I assumed it had something to do with myself support for Keith.” — www.nbcnews.com/…

In another discordant note, Donna Brazile has been appointed to the rules committee. For weeks, Brazile vociferously denied leaking debate questions to the Clinton team during the 2016 primaries. Months later she admitted to it.

One of the highest-profile Democrats removed from the new list was Barbra Casbar Siperstein, the first transgender member of the DNC. The new list — which, according to DNC spokesman Michael Tyler, was based on recommendations from state parties — included a different transgender member, Marisa Richmond.

Nonetheless, a meeting that Democrats hoped would close the door on the bitter 2016 primary produced yet another activists-vs.-establishment fight. What was reported as a “shake-up” by NBC News became, in Vanity Fair, “DNC chair purges dissenters.” At Splinter, it became “The DNC Cuts High-Profile Trans, POC Members From Party’s Left Wing in the Name of ‘Diversity.’”

— www.washingtonpost.com/…

All of this suggests the vaunted DNC unity commission has not made very much progress.