Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Obama's Healthcare Plan

I have been doing a bit of reading up on Obama's Health Care reform plan for a couple of reasons. One because I have become more or less addicted to reading the Drudge report and the report is dead against any health reform. Mind you the the Drudge Report seems to be against any kind of rational reform of the status quo.

The report is an unashamed champion of the lunatic conservative fringe, no unbiased reporting here. The report contains links to vociferous articles opposed not just to Health Reform but anything Obama. Some of the video taken at the so called town hall meetings is as sickening as it is interesting. Not just because you have some fat inbred loser screaming senselessly at a politician brave enough to show up. More because the tactics of opposition are reminiscent of the sort of strong arm thuggish actions that the Mullahs in Iran use against dissent. Or 1930's Germany.

The other reason I find this whole debate so interesting is that I find it difficult to comprehend that the US doesn't have some kind of universal health care for it's population. The most powerful country in the world has a dirty little secret. Well it's not a secret and they have more than one. America cannot ensure that all of it's population has access to decent health care.

An incredible 45 million people don't have health insurance, wastage possibly accounts for up to 30% of medical costs and more interesting still that despite all the money sloshing around in the medical economy doctors are not making enough money. So even if Obama waves his magic wand and there is a new affordable health care system there might not be enough doctors to go round.

If this is the result of a capitalist approach to medical care leave me with the socialist version that I am used to.

The US system appears to be unsustainable with the costs of health care insurance rising faster than wages growth and people simply being unable to afford cover and or being bankrupted after having to fork out for a major illness or accident.

Coming from a country where health care is a basic right for all and where the state run hospitals operate in an environment that also lets people purchase private health care I find it hard to understand that millions of Americans don't have this basic right. If I fall over and break my leg or get sick all is not lost I will taken off to hospital in an ambulance and treated no questions asked. If I have had an accident I will also receive 80% of my wages through a compulsory no fault insurance program that all working people pay into.

The opposition to reform makes a lot out of Obama's plan being anti Capitalist-read anti American and just another example of socialism taking over America by stealth.
But lets face it America doesn't have an economy that runs on pure capitalist principles anyway. Big business and the right wing just use this ideal to get their own way. If America was truly capitalist there would be a couple of big car makers and a few banks that should have gone down the gurgler over the last few months.

It seems to me looking in from afar that Health Reform is crucial for the American economy and the American people. Surely it makes good business sense to make people well as soon as possible and as cheaply as possible, and run health programs to improve the health of all those people with chronic (and to some extent preventable) diseases? And do all this at the best cost?

I guess all this would make sense but the Drug and Insurance companies and the large medical suppliers are more interested in their own profits not of the health of any one or group of individuals. That is free market capitalism.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

How to fix the All Blacks.

If you listen to the three wise men of NZ Rugby the national team has the right game plan but the players are not executing it correctly. Thus explained is one of the worst starts to an international calendar. 6 games and only 3 wins. Yeah right. So who's fault is that? The All Blacks are playing like the Auckland Blues played just before Henry pulled the pin on the team and toddled off to Wales in the late 90's.

A team chock full of talent but unable to turn that talent into consistent wins when it really mattered. The way that Blues team, Wales and now the All Blacks have stuttered and run out steam seems to indicate that the coaching team has run out out of ideas, or they have got stale and the players have got sick of being geed up the same way by the old headmaster and his senior teachers.

The reappointment of the current coaching panel after the last world cup failure (our worst showing ever at a World Cup) and more recently having those appointments extended to the next world cup have polarised the nation. The chasm between the rugby union and the Henry apologists and the rest of us is only going to get wider as the All Blacks' results fail to live up to the high standards we expect.

The first two round of the NPC have been attracting record numbers of live and television viewers. In total contrast to the International team the provincial teams are playing with passion and appear to have a plan of action that the players adhere. The All Blacks and the coaching team would be wise to take some lessons from the local game.

There have been a few upsets and Auckland, the team that given it's pool of potential players should be the overwhelming favorite each time it takes the filed has been tipped over twice. This isn't so suprising as the Auckland Rugby Union appears to be run by the same sort of opportunists that run the national game.

The All Blacks need to be playing with the commitment, passion and structure that the provincial teams are exercising at the moment. The players also need to be playing as often as possible, not coddled in cotton wool after each big game. We need players who are in form not players who were in some sort of form the last time they played which might have been weeks ago. Playing international rugby, well any kind of rugby is tough on the body. But then so are a lot of other sports so I don't hold with the policy of resting players. If they get injured or lose form then pick someone else.

My remedy for their current woes?
  • Replace the coaching staff immediately. There are plenty of candidates out there who can take the team through to the next World Cup
  • Make the players play week in week out when games available. Get them out there playing for this clubs and provincial unions wherever possible
  • Make sure that the start of the provincial season does not clash with the club finals.
My tip for the NPC final. Waikato vs Hawkes Bay. Waikato to win.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Bring back Laurie. South Africa 31 All Blacks 19

The end of the world is upon us. The All Blacks lose two in a row against the Springboks! A depression has moved onto the country and is unlikely to clear anytime soon.

One of the things that defines us as a country and a people is our love for rugby. It would be fair to argue that rugby is not quite the dominant force that it once was. However there is no doubt that the game still has a huge following with many of us supporting both the national team and our provincial favourites (unfortunately Waikato also lost last night!). Rugby continues to dominate the headlines, our biggest stars are household names across the rugby world, and often move there as well.

Players grace the front of the woman's magazines spilling their guts on their love lives and are pilloried in the news media when things get a bit out of hand after a night out with the boys or they get a speeding ticket. Rugby has an impact on New Zealand like the Tour de France in France, cricket in India, American Football in the US and of course soccer in Europe. Performances at every level are dissected endlessly and if our top teams lose it is almost like the end of the world.

The game was long strictly amateur and the All Blacks were the dominant team of this era. Well most of time. It wasn't until 1956 that the AB's finally won a test series against the old foe, the Springboks on home soil. It would take the fall of apartheid in South Africa and neutral referees before we achieved that goal in South Africa.

The All Blacks were the dominant team of the amateur era because they played and trained like professionals and because they played with a dogged determination and discipline that other teams seemed to lack. For a small unimportant country at the end of the world, outnumbered 30 to one by sheep this was one thing that we could do better than almost anybody else. Even if most of the world didn't know much about this obscure game invented by a bloke called William Ellis who picked up a soccer ball and ran with it at an English public school sometime in the 1860s.

The All Blacks epitomised all that we consider ourselves to be. Tough, uncompromising, innovative. World Champions. Well we used to be. They aren't and we aren't any longer. New Zealand continues as a production line of top rugby pedigree but we haven't won the most important trophy in the game since the inaugural Rugby World cup in 1987. The only time we came close was 1995 in South Africa where we narrowly lost a final with a team that had come down with a dose of food poisoning (or were poisoned).

Many people blame the game becoming fully professional after 1995 for our inability to capture the glory of 1987 and perhaps even 1995. As the years have gone by the aura of the All Blacks has dimmed and the fat wallets of the the Northern hemisphere and Japan have siphoned of some of our best playing and coaching talent. Despite this the All Blacks are still the most successful international rugby team but their inability to win the vital games is giving them a well earned reputation as chokers.

The coach of the 1995 team was a pretty tough task master. Several years ago he came out of retirement to coach a provincial team and the players more or less mutinied over his methods. Looking back this really epitomises what is wrong with Rugby at the highest level and to a large extent this is a reflection on our society. The players thought they knew better but clearly they didn't.

We reward mediocrity in all walks of life either by ignoring it because it reflects badly on ourselves or because we don't want to make a scene. We collectively don't respect authority and have no sense of commitment or discipline and we certainly don't take responsibility for our mistakes. It is all somebody else's fault and we let people get away with it. I also blame the namby pamby cardigan wearers that have influenced generations of people in this country to believe that competition (like trying to win something) and personal discipline are bad things and they don't need to do what they are told by someone in authority if they don't feel like it.

After the last World Cup debacle. You know the story. Rested players when they should have been playing. Started favourites. Lost in the quarter final. Blame the referee for missing a forward pass. Real reason out passioned by the French and once the coaches ran out of ideas the players didn't know what to do. To make matters worse when we had the opportunity to get rid of the coaching panel after the World Cup and appoint someone else the panel was retained. The men that should have been appointed take up overseas contracts and are lost to the local game until at least after the next world cup.

What is wrong with our game at the top level is a lack of leadership, the leadership of the team at the coaching level, their tactics and planning and that of the NZRFU for appointing them and reinforcing their collective failures. Some of the players on the field might be a bit past their use by date last night but barring those that are injured the All Blacks fielded close to their top players -they just didn't seem to know what to do.

Round one of the NPC has shown once again that whatever the loses of talent overseas there is still plenty in the tank. We have the talent to win the next World Cup - the players just need some leadership. Bring back Laurie I say.