Friday, 21 August 2009

Stop the lies about our health service

First, let me declare an interest. Both I and my grandson (who was born prematurely, has been in and out of Great Ormond Street children's hospital and will require continuing treatment for the rest of his life) have received the sort of care from the National Health Service that would have been beyond the means of the majority of people in the US. Like the vast majority of people in the UK, I'm proud of the NHS and I'm sick of those wealthy vested interests that try to run it down.

Now let me urge you to sign up to the message below to the people of America. About 80,000 people have done so already; it will take you a couple of minutesto join them.

UK to US: the truth about the NHS

Barack Obama's movement for change in the US is at risk of collapsing - in large part because of lies about healthcare in the UK!

It's incredible, but Obama's health plan, and with it his entire presidency, could be derailed if big corporations and the radical right manage to convince Americans that the NHS is a nightmare rationed service that refuses to treat patients and abandons the most needy, such as Stephen Hawking, without care.

We need a huge popular outcry to show the truth - how proud and grateful we are in the UK to have a public healthcare system that works, despite its imperfections. Sign on to the message to America and forward this link - if enough of us sign, we'll cause a stir in US media and help change the debate:

US healthcare is run by large corporations - it's the most expensive in the world, but ranks 37th in quality, and 40 million Americans can't afford any care at all. It's an awful system for people, but corporations make enormous profits, so they're fighting to keep it. Industry lobbyists are ramping up their smear campaigns right now to make sure the Obama plan is dead on arrival when Congress meets in September. Americans are hearing a constant barrage of propaganda that the NHS is a nightmare. Let's say it ain't so.

Myths about the proposed health care reforms

Extreme tactics of the conservative right

Paul Krugman on health care

The extent of the health care lobby

Health insurers stocks rise as health care plans fade

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Cricket: better than sex?

First day of the last Ashes Test and those ever-imaginative people at Philosophy Football have diversified into cricket. This means that you can now add this t-shirt, inspired by the late cricket fanatic and Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, to your whites - or ritually burn it, as the mood takes you, when England's batting again collapses at the crucial moment.

Cricket has drawn a surprising number of left-wing writers to the crease over the years, from CLR James to Mike Marqusee and ex-New Statesman editor Peter Wilby. But cricketers themselves often lack the same way with words. Former England captain Mike Gatting was once asked if he felt vindicated when a test victory followed a period of press criticism. 'I don't think the press are vindictive,' he replied. 'They can write what they want.'

Saturday, 8 August 2009

A trip to the Tower

My friend is on a mission. At the top of the Oxo Tower on London’s South Bank is a public viewing platform overlooking the Thames. You have to go through the eighth-floor Harvey Nichols restaurant to get to it, and the restaurant has been colonising it with tables and chairs as part of its bar space in recent years. But it’s there as a condition of the original planning consent for the restaurant (which sits on top of possibly the best-positioned social housing ever built) and the public has a right of access.

When we visit, however, the restaurant has attempted to close off the area altogether for a private function. My friend isn’t having it. ‘Am I embarrassing you?’ she asks me in an aside as she harangues the bar-tender and anyone else within shouting distance about public access and threatens to bring 60 students along on a field trip as part of the planning course she teaches.

‘No,’ I lie. Actually I’d prefer a slightly quieter defence of our traditional liberties, but she happens to be in the right and I have no intention of moving from our position looking out towards St Paul’s, ‘private’ function or not. We assert our right to be there for as long as I can stand it (an hour on the plinth is more than enough public attention for one summer) and having made the point move on.

If you value public rights of access you have to use them. I recommend making use of the Oxo Tower public viewing facility next time you’re nearby. Just take the lift to the top floor: the view really is worth it.