Belmont Club

This Week

Some days bring up an assortment of news that can only be called a snapshot of the times. No common thread runs through them except a kind of spirit of the age. It’s a day in the life, bringing both good and bad

The first snippet is news that the fake sign language interpreter present at the Mandela funeral was once part of a group that burned people to death. “They told The Associated Press that the group placed tires around the men’s necks and set them ablaze. Unlike two other suspects who went to trial in 2006 for the killings, the four said on Monday that Thamsanqa Jantjie never did because authorities determined he wasn’t mentally fit.”

Thamsanqa Jantjie reminds us that the “long walk to freedom” takes place in a context different from that imagined in the West.  Revolutions are made mostly by killing people, and warfare is the same way.

And if you think death brings escape from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes”, think again. From Washington state comes news that under the new health care reforms that state can take your money for hospital payments after you’re dead. “As thousands of state residents enroll in Washington’s expanded Medicaid program, many will be surprised at fine print: After you’re dead, your estate can be billed for ordinary health-care expenses.” They are victims of a rule that attaches the assets of people with low incomes. As it happens, that describes retirees.

Some 55- to 64-year-olds, who may have taken early retirement or who were laid off during the recession, have found themselves plunged into a low-income bracket. Unlike Medicaid recipients in the past — who were required to reduce their assets to qualify — they’re more likely to have a home or other assets.

For health coverage through Medicaid, income is now the only financial requirement.

At first, Prins was pleased at the prospect of free coverage.

But the more she thought about the fine print, the more upset she got. Why was this provision only for people age 55 and older? Why should those insured by Medicaid have to pay back health expenses from their estates when people with just a bit more income who get federal subsidies don’t? Why didn’t she and Balhorn know about this before getting to the application stage? …

Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the politically conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, writing in the The Washington Times, called the recovery provision “a cash cow for states to milk the poor and the middle class.”

“People will think this is wonderful, this is free insurance,” Orient said in an interview. “They don’t realize it’s really a loan, and is secured by any property they have.”

It’s cradle to grave healthcare — and beyond the grave too. Once I received a Skype message from someone who was dead. It turned out to be a relative clearing out the deceased’s computer. But Skype should work on wiring up the dead.  As the Democratic Party has often proved, it’s not impossible. Anyways, the dead should be allowed back on the network if they’re going to be billed.

And speaking of healthcare, have you heard of al-Qaedacare? The Yemeni Defence Ministry released CCTV footage showing the December attack on a hospital compound by a suicide bomber and gunmen wearing army uniforms. Sixty three people were killed. You might say they gave the doctors and the patients “the treatment”. What happened to the Geneva convention? Well it works in Geneva.

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But never fear, the EPA is on the job.  What’s the EPA got to do with it? Everything as it turns out. NBC News reports that “the EPA’s highest-paid employee and a leading expert on climate change deserves to go to prison for at least 30 months for lying to his bosses and saying he was a CIA spy working in Pakistan so he could avoid doing his real job, say federal prosecutors.”

And his real job was telling us about climate change.

This week I learned about Tim Lopes, a Brazilian investigative journalist who died back in 2002.  He had rigged himself with a recorder to capture a baile funk — featuring child sex — in Rio’s slums.  But the gangsters who ran the slums had a little kid who surreptitiously checked visitors for wires and Lopes was duly discovered.

The traffickers tied Lopes to a tree … They proceeded to burn Lopes’ eyes with a cigarette … using a samurai or a ninja type sword, Elias Maluco [the gangster] proceeded to cut off Tim Lopes’ hands, arms, and legs while Lopes was still alive. … Lopes was placed within several tires, covered in diesel gasoline, and set on fire. This process, which had become institutionalized among traffickers within Rio’s most violent favelas at the time, was referred to as micro-ondas [microwave oven].

Which brings us right back to the fake ANC interpreter, who only did the last part. He skipped the samurai sword and the cigarettes. There may have been no problem letting him stand beside world leaders, but its a reminder of how base human passions are to be found in Yemen, Brazil or Soweto; indeed the world over. They buried madiba but we have yet to inter our demons.

It’s the 21st century. China’s Jade Rabbit landed on the moon, in 480p video. President Obama is meeting tomorrow with tech industry leaders, an industry which didn’t exist a few decades ago to talk “about the tech disaster that was, how government can better deliver IT and of course, national security.” And ships, as the video below shows, are no longer your grandfather’s ships. In the 21st century you don’t tow giant cruise ships like the Costa Condordia derelict away. You load them on a bigger ship and sail away, sail away.

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It’s astonishing to realize that one biggest radars ever built is seagoing.  Bigger than a battleship, this naval radar had a base built for it in Alaska, but has since operated mostly out of Pearl Harbor guarding the world, largely unthanked, from the likes of Kim Jong-Un.

All ahead radar

All ahead radar

The marvels abound in our brave new world and so do the horrors. The heart of man is still the same despite all these centuries since paradise; riven by heroism and villainy and trapped between the impulse to heaven and the craving for hell.

And remember, there’s still next week.  With any luck, humanity will be here to bring us the next exciting episode.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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