September 20, 2000
2:09 AM   Subscribe

Brilliant and funny Gore Vidal Interview (Real Audio).
Question: "Al Gore is a distant relative of yours. Do you see a debate going on between him and Texas Gov. George W. Bush?"
Answer: "No, no, there's no debate going on right now. They are essentially the same on the basic issues. They are both candidates of corporate America. They're paid for. How did George W. Bush, a man who has officially [advocated for] education, but has carefully avoided education for himself, end up where he's at? He's about the most ignorant man who has ever run for president...but he got $70 million from corporate America, and they expect him to pay them back." (partial transcript here)
posted by johnb (15 comments total)
We're the only civilized country that does not have national health. We have the worst public educational system of any first world country -- the worst ... What I'm now talking about should be discussed by the two boys, and they're never going to mention any of it.

Sigh. If you Americans don't want Gore Vidal, can we have him?
posted by holgate at 9:33 PM on September 20, 2000

You can have him. First of all, he's wrong. We do have national health. Hospitals are legally required to take in those that need medical help, and there are all sorts of programs and clinics for the poor. And between those and the rest of our resources, we have the greatest health care system in the world. Interestingly, it seems a lot of the reason health care in the US costs so much is because we're subsidizing the rest of you.
posted by aaron at 9:48 PM on September 20, 2000

We're certainly not subsidizing treatment or prevention of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, nor hunger around the globe, to any extent which would suggest an intention to actually help the majority of those who are suffering. I didn't bother to click through to msnbc, Aaron, but I would suggest that if you were one of the many very unfortunate people who are without health insurance and in need of extensive care in this country, you might change your tune.
posted by sudama at 9:56 PM on September 20, 2000

How could a Ralph Nader story be interesting? He has been turned into the national scold, just as i am referred to as the national gadfly (i assume that's because 'intellectual' is too difficult a word to spell). He has been made the bore of all time.... But he's not boring, he's presented as a bore, as a nag. [The corporate media] have made him the bore of all time -- [they] could just as easily have made him intersting... but it did not serve the purposes of General Motors, the first big corporation to go to war against him, so he's really marginalized.

Now when you get somebody really exciting who talks about change, like Jesse Jackson, they start playing hardball. Imagine smearing him as an anti-semite? I can imagine as anti-white you might make a case -- but an anti-semite is about as wild as you could get from Jesse Jackson. But the point is, "Eliminate him!", "Eliminate him!". You get rid of anybody who wants to make change.

Great stuff, John! Thanks much.
posted by sudama at 10:00 PM on September 20, 2000

And between those and the rest of our resources, we have the greatest health care system in the world.

Statistically untrue: the WHO's rankings which measure access to healthcare among the most needy alongside traditional indicators, rank the US, um, 37th. Well beaten by most of Western Europe, Arabia, Chile, Morocco... and just tipped by Dominica and Costa Rica in 35th and 36th.

Anecdotally untrue: a visiting American friend said to me today, after an X-ray on a bruised ankle: "That was incredible. I was there two hours, and all they asked was for an address. Back home, that would have cost me $200, and it would have been at the university centre where the staff are useless and don't care."

aaron, you're living proof of Gore Vidal's argument that the mainstream media keeps the populace ignorant of how it's getting screwed.
posted by holgate at 10:14 PM on September 20, 2000

Oh, and that MSNBC link: the price of prescription drugs in the US is rising because the pharmaceutical companies market their latest, patent-protected concoctions to a vulnerable public in soft-focus on TV, and in glossy magazines, encouraging them to badger their doctors for the latest "name" drug. At the same time, they're marketing to professionals, offering free samples, and generally wielding corporate muscle. The tactics of the street pusher.

And often, these medicines are less effective on the most susceptible groups than conventional remedies: hence the hissyfit kicked by GlaxoWellcome when the NHS said it wasn't prepared to pay top dollar for a flu drug that probably does more harm than good to elderly sufferers. So, you're going to move your business elsewhere? Let me show you the fucking door.
posted by holgate at 10:28 PM on September 20, 2000

Another anecdote:

Living in the US. Get weird rashy thing on arms and go see doctor. Bill: $75 for about ten minutes of the doctor's time, and $150 for the medical institution that provided the bed I sat on as I was being examined.

Living in Australia. Have weird intestinal bug and go see doctor. Bill: free, as it is to everyone.

I honestly can't remember the last time I paid for medical care in Australia. That, to me, is a "great health system".
posted by Georgina at 10:40 PM on September 20, 2000

Wow Aaron, the emergency room. Why didn't anyone think of that?

Just think of all the preventive care you can get an emergency room. Think of the check-ups for you can get for yourself and your children in the emergency room. And you know what, if you don't give them your real name, they can't even bill you for it! (last tidbit courtesy of This Modern World . . . I just couldn't fine the specific comic).

Ack, what's this giant metal hook in my mouth . . .

posted by alan at 10:42 PM on September 20, 2000

Why is it that those on the left feel the need to demonize and spew personal attacks and hatred whenever we debate anything on here? If you're just going to call people names like "ignorant," holgate, there's really no reason for you to be here at all in a place that exists for the purpose of discussion.

NONanecdotal reported proof: Waiting lists to see a hospital consultant in England nearly doubled in the last few years; 1.1 million now on waiting lists.

>>I didn't bother to click through to msnbc...<<

Well, no offense sudama, but it makes it hard to argue anything if you won't read it. :)

>>but I would suggest that if you were one of the many very unfortunate people who are without health insurance and in need of extensive care in this country, you might change your tune.<<

Actually, not too long ago I was unemployed and without health insurance for a number of months. I got all the care I needed, free of charge, through government programs. I got all the medications I needed via programs for the poor run by the drug companies and those "free sample" programs holgate demonized above. I had no problems receiving any needed health care whatsoever.

The WHO report is far too skewed towards socialized health care to be the end-all-be-all that you wish to claim.
posted by aaron at 10:57 PM on September 20, 2000

Georgina, are you an American citizen or an Australian citizen? I don't know if the rules are different in the US, but in Australia, I, as a visitor, am not entitled to one penny's worth of health coverage, no matter what happens to me.
posted by aaron at 11:18 PM on September 20, 2000

I'm not trying to argue, Aaron, just to discuss this with you. I just now took a moment to search for both 'Africa' and 'hunger' in the msnbc article and didn't turn up any results. Can you convince me to read it?
posted by sudama at 11:23 PM on September 20, 2000

jeez aaron, your story of health coverage while being unemployed is the first one I've ever heard of. Not a single friend of mine that has been sans health care has ever gotten to see a doctor free of charge. What programs cover unemployed americans?
posted by mathowie at 11:45 PM on September 20, 2000

I just think it's crazy that people jump to 2 sides-- national health, and it's great the way it is. No matter what you say, Aaron, it's not great here unless you have money. Period. I've been on both sides, and yeah, when I was living the middle class life, I probably had the best health care in the world-- no lines, not too much waiting, subsidized drugs.

But when I went freelance (or unemployed, depending on how much travelling I was doing or how you look at it) it was a different story. Terrible waits, outrageous bills, drugs I couldn't afford. I'm just about to move back into the middle class (I'm lucky my education and the current economy gives me that option!) and one of the best things will be that I can actually go to the doctor if I get sick.

That shouldn't be a privilege. We have the wealthiest nation in the world, and we can't figure out a solution to the problem. I don't think it's National Health, for a million different reasons, but the current version just plain sucks. Can't we think creatively, and create a mix of incentives for Corporations to provide standard health for all their employees (including, gasp, those that work less than 40 hours a week?), as well as a Government program to provide incentives for Drug companies to subsidize drugs for the terminally ill and elderly?

It's crazy that every year Drug companies reap billions of dollars through research started in Gov't funded labs, and from Corporate tax breaks, and yet they can't be made to pony up for the weakest members of society. No, they say, we must profit from them too. Well it's bullshit. If our tax dollars help them map their genes and develop their drugs, then we deserve a piece of the action.

I am 100% in favor of a free, fair, and open market, but by buying our government, the corporations have completely obliterated any freedom involved. They take our money (in the form of tax shelters and handouts they wrangle from the Government) to mine our land, drill our oil, map our genes, cut down our trees, and 1000 other things, and then they sell it back to us at a ridiculous mark-up, and use their power within the government to squelch free speech and new ideas.

Don't kid yourselves, Gore and Bush are equal partners in this crime, which is well documented-- Gore in timber, drugs, and oil, and Bush in oil, and who knows what else if he gets a chance. As Nader (who I disagree with on lots of issues, but at least he has the fortitude to say something about the real problems facing the country) often says, the only difference in the two is the speed at which they'll sell us out.

I'm just so sick of everyone rushing to the two sides created by the two parties. National Health or keep it the same. How bout neither? How about getting a return on our investment for once, instead of selling it for nothing to blood-sucking, greed infused corporations whose only goal is profit at the expense of the people. How about using our democracy to protect our National assets, instead of giving them away for free, only to have them sold back to us at a 1000% mark-up. How about using our democracy to think of creative ways to help our poor, feed our hungry, clothe the naked, (unless they are beautiful models), and heal the sick? How about electing leaders who aren't beholden to the interests of the people who fund their campaigns? How about that?
posted by chaz at 1:37 AM on September 21, 2000

I'm an Australian citizen, and I’m certainly not suggesting that the US government should have footed the bill for my medical attention.

I was never asked my citizenship by the US medical centre, so I think it’s safe to assume that an American citizen would have been charged the same $225 to see the doctor as I was. Thus the comparison, for what it’s worth -- and it is an anecdote, which I acknowledged -- holds true.

Incidentally, though you would not receive free health care here, Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with the UK, New Zealand and parts of Europe. Given the fact that even citizens do not receive free health care in the US it is perhaps not surprising that the US government has not entered into such an agreement with Australia.
posted by Georgina at 2:36 AM on September 21, 2000

aaron: I take back the word "ignorant", and substitute "dubiously informed"; especially since you're citing an Australian health insurer, alongside the bloody Daily Torygraph, as an unbiased sources.

I know the failings of the NHS: I have friends who work in it, who are frustrated by its bloated bureaucracy and its excessive reliance on the committment of staff to paper over the cracks. I defend it because they defend it, and because I think it's my country's greatest political achievement this century; though I doubt I'd want a new system created in its image.

But can you understand my frustration at my girlfriend's having to pay $50-100 a month for prescription drugs, on top of her monthly premium? That she said to me "well, I can't afford to get sick for the next three months" when she changed jobs, and was uninsured? That a pub we visited in Savannah was taking a collection towards the medical bills of its manager, because it's so difficult for publicans to get insurance?

Between the idea and the reality / Falls the shadow.
posted by holgate at 11:44 AM on September 21, 2000

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