Uncharitable Thoughts 46

Central Asian friends of ours thought that all their dreams had come true when they won a green card and went to live in Florida. But reality soon caught up – living in a cramped room, and no work. Their baby soon got seriously ill, but they were turned away from hospital as they had no money. The baby got worse. Eventually they were seen at a charity clinic but by that stage the baby needed urgent hospital admission. In desperation they turned to us; we were having a hard time ourselves, but I scraped together some money.

The wife – who is well qualified and fluent in English – told me she had applied for many jobs. Even for toilet cleaning and dishwashing she had been turned down flat. She said that she had, on almost every occasion, been asked straight out whether she was a Muslim. They had chosen Florida because of the Disneyland posters.

The baby is now fine and their financial situation is improving because the husband has joined the US Army. Think of that next time you hear of US troops in Afghanistan; some of them are there from deepest despair.

Of course, many poor children die in the US every year because of inadequate healthcare. But should British taxpayers fund their healthcare? No, of course not. It will be plain to you I am using that sad but quite true story to introduce a reductio ad absurdum to try to counter the knee jerk liberal/left reaction that it would be wrong to stop giving aid to India.

Last week India tested its missile interceptor shield – a US $11 billion programme. That was the moment that did it for me. Of course, there is nowhere in the world that there are not people who need help. But if India taxed people earning over US $50,000 per year at the same rate that the UK does, that would bring in extra revenue approximately 70 times the amount the UK gives India in aid.

I don’t suggest that as a formal test, but it is an increasing indicator. If Ghana for example charged those earning over US $50,000 at the same rate the UK does, that would not amount in extra income to as much as just once the amount the UK gives Ghana in aid.

I am only suggesting an indicator, not advocating those tax increases. And I don’t think that our aid plans should be cut -merely given only to countries that really can’t help themselves.

On the subject of misuse of funds in BRIC countries, here is a quite astonishing statistic that indicates monumental corruption on a scale it is hard to get the mind around – there are 67 dollar billionaires who are members of China’s People’s Assembly. That is a great many more than there are in the whole of the UK.

But a fascinating thing is that I learnt that from China’s atate broadcaster, CCTV, where it was discussed quite openly as an example of “Misuse of influence”. A few hours of CCTV is rewarding viewing. You will certainly learn the point of view of the Chinese government, but discussion both of China and of world affairs really is surprisingly free, and the overall level of bias is much less, and certianly much less shrill, than Fox News. Presumably as it is in English, the authorities are much more relaxed about it than they are about internal media.

CCTV is in large part aimed at Africa. In Ghana, for example, BBC, CNN, Sky and Al Jazeera are all available by satellite with a subscription, but the Chinese Government pays the South African satellite provider (covering all sub-Saharan Africa) to make CCTV available without subscription to anyone with a satellite receiver. Possession of a receiver and old dish but no subscription is very common, especially in local bars and other communal spaces where many watch their TV.


More teething problems on new site this morning, it won’t let me add any new posts. If it doesn’t get cleared in a couple of hours I’ll add the new article to the bottom of this one as a temporary fix.

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46 thoughts on “Uncharitable Thoughts

  • Suhaylsaadi

    Good post, Craig. I agree completely. Of course, aid is given for reasons not completely to do with altruism. It can be useful in giving 'us' a foot in another country's society, in terms of influence and soft inflitration; this applies to allies as much as 'enemies'. But you're right. If their MI complexes need trimmed, let them trim those and divert the dosh to health and education! Meanwhile, services in the Uk are being cut. This is completely illogical. Of course, as a body, our rulers care not a jot about poor Indians/Africans, nor about the people of Britain. What they care about is maintaining whatever imperial assets the UK state has left internationally.

  • mark_golding

    Ah yes, 'care not a jot' is the norm after all we are only human – that is of course until a catalyst causes 'C-change' as I predict and the world becomes resource driven – a sort of 'Venus project' for the uninitiated. – a human hurdle to another civilisation where 'human' has a different meaning.

    Go ahead punch a brick out of the wall and peer through – what do you see? A world without greed, without suffering, without war. A pipe-dream you may say, delusional, unreal, illogical, 'unpragmatic' – I say to you, think again. – Check out a 'chapter' – join the 'movement' – be different = Prepare to share.

  • Guest

    Even discounting the billions of dollars worth of "soft loans" at very low interest rates which India gives to many sub-Saharan countries, India's pure non-refundable aid donations amount to more than the UK gives them in foreign aid! India usually ensures its aid has strings attached, however, so that these donations and loans can only be used to import goods from India itself. The UK has certainly been guilty of abusing foreign aid itself, although not to the same extent, as it used part of the foreign aid budget to keep Westland's order books going, donating a number of helicopters as "aid", although they were not wanted, just to keep the company solvent.

    More info at – http://leftwrite.wordpress.com/2008/04/15/foreign

  • YugoStiglitz

    I really don't think there's a hospital in the U.S. that would turn away a baby in need of urgent admission. I also don't think that it's typical that, in the U.S., a potential employee is queried on his or her religious status. I also wonder whether there are jobs "cleaning toilets" – cleaning offices, hotel rooms, etc. are typical cleaning jobs – "cleaning toilets" is probably not a job.

    • Craig_Murray


      I was considering your comments quite seriously until you averred that there is no such thing as a job cleaning toilets. I also strongly suspect that an employee who looked like me would not be quizzed on their religious status, but In Florida it appears that at least one person who looks Muslim was so quizzed – repeatedly. I am very interested in your opinion that US hospitals offer free healthcare to babies. It wasn't offered in this case, and I would be interested to hear from others if it is generally true.

    • Patrícia

      ít is a waste of time to answer it but anyway in which world do you live, Yugo? there are a lot of brazilians travel around the world to "cleaning toilets" like a job. And here, all you know is that USA don't guarantee public attendance in hospital for people (especially for foreigners). For americans, there were recent changes like you told . But if someone intend to travel to US (like here), he should do an insurance, otherwise he will be screwed up if he get sick there.

    • glenn_uk

      YugoStiglitz wrote: "I really don't think there's a hospital in the U.S. that would turn away a baby in need of urgent admission."

      Sure, sure. Trouble is you have to go to the Emergency Room, and the baby (or any other person) really has to be in need of urgent admission at that point. No point bringing it in earlier, they'd tell you to go away unless it's Really Serious. (I think you're slyly admitting to that – it has to be urgent or you can take a hike, but not honest enough to say so outright.) Then they'll treat it, and then your problems really begin.

      You're not going to get free treatment just because things are serious. You're going to be billed, and billed very heavily. The baby needs monitoring for 36 hours? That'll be a minimum of $30K please. Just for starters. If the baby received treatment, you're talking real money very quickly. Don't worry about payment – we've got a substantial portion of the hospital devoted to billing, and we'll keep the juice on you through some credit agency until we've either got the money, or written it off by selling the debt to a collection agency.

      You don't seem to think about quite a lot, as you say. Do you really think cleaning toilets is a specialised position, as opposed to it being included in a surprisingly wide number of positions, or is that pedantic nit-picking? Sure people are questioned on their possible religious leanings, particularly if they might be one of those teeer'st Muzlems, or do you seriously know nothing about America in the past 10 years? In which case, why bother commenting, other than to express your doubts based on nothing but personal ignorance.

    • MerkinOnParis

      Where I live, the local Council employs one worker at low wages to clean all the public toilets.
      He is required to travel by bike to a range of sites in a wide geographical area.
      He is not paid for his travelling time – only the time actually shovelling shit.

      No such job?
      Gimme a break.

  • Guest

    Fox may have been allowed the scope of free speech, but look what they've done with it. What a waste!

    • YugoStiglitz

      Thank you for proving my point. That jobs is attending to bathrooms, not solely cleaning toilets.

      • nextus

        Ah, your pedantry exposes your disruptive intent, Yuri. The only person who said "solely" was you. The other tasks are merely auxiliary. Likewise, virtually every other job under the sun entails more than just a single core activity (most involve paperwork, for instance) . So are you really suggesting we can't say a person gets a job picking grapes, because they have to put the grapes in a container too, or does the description imply they let fall the grapes fall to the ground? That's the implication of your daft pedantic literalism. Are there jobs sweeping the streets, or do we have to say "sweeping the streets, gathering the dust and rubbish, pushing the cart, etc., etc… Can firefighters also drive the fire engine?

        The fact you even raised such a silly pseudo-challenge, and presented it as if it were a refutation, sets off the 'troll' alarm.

  • Guest

    Anyone who doubts that there could be such a job as just cleaning toilets should see the classic Monty Python sketch where a pretty debutante takes her fiance home to meet her stockbroker father, Naturally, he asks about his prospective son-in-law's job……

    "Toilet cleaner, eh? Any prospects for promotion?
    "Oh yes after five years they give me a brush!"

    No doubt brushes will be one of the first luxuries to go in the soon to be announced council cutbacks.

  • C3PO

    "CCTV and Fox News – one of the many private networks in the U.S. that is allowed the full scope of free speech? "

    Errm… Fox News is free to air whatever (drivel) it likes. And so is CCTV. It's the public that doesn't get the choice.

    • YugoStiglitz

      CCTV is allowed to air whatever it likes? What? It's a government-owned instrument of propaganda.

      And you have to agree that "regular" citizens of China don't have free speech – they're not allowed to protest – so why would you think that the employees of CCTV would be granted free speech?

      • Craig_Murray

        Certainly there is not free speech in China. And I am sure there isn't on CCTV either. But it is free to a surprising extent – and altogether more balanced than Fox News.

  • King of Welsh Noir

    I had a job once cleaning toilets, in the BMW factory in Munich. Admittedly it also entailed cleaning the hand basins but the toilet cleaning bit took up most of the time. That was thirty years ago and in all that time, whenever I have discussed it with other people, no one has ever challenged me and said there's no such job as cleaning toilets.

  • Michael.K

    But Fox News, or as I prefer, Fucks News (sorry). Isn't "free" allowing a wide spectrum of views equal time. It's tightly controlled and has a clear right-wing political agenda.

    Anecdotes aside, the US healthcare system is a boated, wasteful, corrupt, inefficient, disaster area. A system so unecessarily costly it beggars belief. Why construct a system that's both massively expensive and doesn't properly cover all Americans? It's generally accepted that somewhere in excess of 50,000 Americans die needlessly, becuase they lack the right kind of heatlh insurance, and it's probably a conservative figure, every year. That's over half a million preventable, excess deaths, since 9/11. Yet one launches massive wars against terrorism, to supposedly protect ordinary Americans, wars costing trillions of dollars, whilst one callously allows the poor and the sick to die their thousands. I often wonder who the real terrorists are.

    And the answer to the question why tolerate such a blatantly unfair and wasteful system, is both shocking and ghastly. The system isn't primarily there to serve the American people's healthcare needs. It's true purpose is to fill the pockets of the people who own shares in the drug industry and the insurance companies. It's about serving their interests first and patients second. It's a transfer of wealth by stealth.

    • YugoStiglitz

      Michael, I stupidly went without health insurance for a while, more or less because I was starting a business and didn't have a lot of cash lying around. But the premium was only $120 per month (I was male, early 30s) and I was addicted to cigarettes at the time, and probably going out on the town a bit too much, so I easily could have swung it.

      Thankfully nothing happened. If I merely broke my leg, I would have been screwed.

      But I got married and I'm on my wife's insurance policy now. Like the good majority of Americans, I'm playing by the rules.

      And it's a wonderful thing to be back on American insurance. I was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea. In fact, right now, I'm going in for a follow-up appointment with my doctor. Let me break the timetable down for you:

      1. I decide that I want to get checked out for sleep apnea. I call my GP. One week later, I see my GP.
      2. My GP makes a referral. Two weeks later, I see the specialist.
      3. The specialist orders a sleep study. One week later, I do an overnight split study.
      4. One day later – a Thursday – my specialist calls me and gives me the diagnosis. I call the CPAP vendor. She apologizes that she can't see me until Monday.
      5. On that Monday, I get a CPAP machine.

      That's one month between the time that I decide to get checked out and finally sleeping well for the first time in 10 years.

      Now contrast that with NHS coverage. Google "waiting time" + CPAP + NHS

      Of course, this is a nice anecdote, but my encounter with the American health system has always generated such anecdotes.

      I think people around the world get their impressions of this topic solely from Michael Moore, and don't realize that it's a pretty good system if you're responsible enough to get covered.

  • Michael.K


    You seem to have lots of thoughts, and opinions, and ideas about the United States and how you think the system works, or should work… but not much real knowledge about how it actually functions in practice. Are you for real, or are you just pretending? It seems rather odd to invest so much energy in subject of which you know so little about.

    • Craig_Murray

      As I understand it – and I didn't subject them to a close examination – the problem was that the hospital would not provide the reatment needed as they could not pay for it. How much effort the hospital had been prepared to put into diagnosis I really don't know. But as the hospital refused treatment without payment, it doesn't make a lot of difference.

  • guest

    In India at least as late as the 1960's ordinary household servants would not clean toilets. Untouchables or Dalits were brought in for just this job . Cleaning toilets may be being used as a metaphor.

  • praisegpd barebones

    This is very much off topic, so feel free to ignore; but I'd be very grateful to a reliable pointer to the correct spelling (in Uzbek, using the Cyrillic alphabet) and pronunciation of 'Uzbekistan'.

    • Craig_Murray

      ok, without a cyrillic keyboard this is the best I can do and hope you know what I mean


      pronounced as you would expect stress on first syllable

    • Craig_Murray

      yzbek incidentally has been written in Latin script for about twenty years, but Cyrillic is probably a better guide to rponunciation. I have often thought that is an interesting reflection that perhaps written language shapes pronunciation, which is counter-intuitve.

  • Frazer

    Just a thought, DFID gives over 24 million a year to the organisation I work for….just last week I transported a very sick baby for 3 hours downriver in a dug out canoe, rushed him to the local MSF clinic and he was admitted immediatly and treated. Nobody asked me for any cash up front. America versus Sub Saharan Africa..no contest !

    • nextus

      Nice one, Frazer! You're right about the comparison. Empathy generally takes preference to economics in impoverished communities. Worse: when the economics become part of the institutional groundrules, as in the US healthcare system, rules prevent people expressing their common humanity.

      Even in the UK, NHS staff are trained to be box-tickers rather than carers.

      In Africa care and respect are part of the community: they don't need socialist infrastructures governed by rules and bureaucracy. They've already got the lead on the "Big Society".

      • Chris, Glasgow

        Nextus, I was in Nigeria last year and I witnessed a person being knocked over on his bike on the morotway. As he lay there dying the police came over and chucked him off the road (they don't like young bikers in Lagos) so that the traffic could start to move on again. He died and the worst thing was that they didn't even bother to move his bike just him as it looked bad having a dead person on the motorway. So I am not sure I share you centiment on Africa. Some of the smaller communities maybe do care for each other but you won't find that in most built up areas in Africa as they don't give a shit about you, especially if you are poor.
        There was an interesting documentary a couple of years ago onthe state of public hospitals in Uganda and how terrible they were. People being left to die in corridors and supplies constantly running out due to the lack of investment from the government. I wouldn't use Sub Saharan Africa as an example of good healthcare.

        • nextus

          Agreed, but urban Nigeria is hardly an exemplar of the kind of sub-Saharan community I was alluding to: i.e. the inter-tribal archetype. In recent decades, Nigeria has been badly corrupted by exactly the same pressure: prioritising economics over community ethics. In fact, some parts of Lagos are virtually lawless – some people would kill you just for the bicycle. Likewise with Uganda, Zimbabwe, etc.: the government has pocketed the aid money. With money, they don't need community.

          These places were corrupted by huge influxes of wealth which distorted the traditional economics, meaning that some individuals no longer relied on reciprocal relationships within the community in order to prosper and stay safe. They had massive purchasing power. When that happens, moral behaviour is no longer an essential part of life: it is a disposable extra, an expensive sentiment for a capitalist. The community has to rely on the rich people having a strong moral conscience or a principled sense of duty. That seems to be the case in Ghana. Even in Accra, the community relies on philanthropy because they don't have a socialist safety net; people have to be nice in order to get by. So although parts of Accra are desperately poor, it's one the safest places to walk the streets at night, even for whites. I have done, and people called out to wish me well; school children ran alongside me and were wonderfully polite ("Please, Obroni, good evening!"). Compare that to inner city London.

    • Patrícia

      i mean…it's kind of diferent, not completely different (does this expression exist? lol)
      because i pay for the public health here that practically i don't have access to it.
      All the money is on the undewears and stockings of governments (literally!)
      if you need to use the public health in Brazil you really could die in the line
      I should pay it again to a private health care company because the public service is horrible with few exceptions.

  • Vronksy

    I have family in the US. Some years ago a friend of the family (a boy of about 20) was involved in a serious road accident. He was taken to hospital but staff would not treat him as he was carrying no credit cards. A cash collection had to be made around family and friends until enough had been gathered to persuade the hospital to begin treatment. Throughout this time he was left bleeding on a gurney in a hospital passageway. It's quite astonishing to me to see those American hospital dramas where casualties are dragged in from the street and treated by heroic teams of expert medics. They never show that crucial scene where the victim is frisked for cash and credit cards.

    • Suhaylsaadi

      Exactly, Vronsky. Those dramas (and the cop dramas like all the CSIs) are just sophisticated propaganda and bear no relation to real life. Btw, hello, how are you?

  • KMansfield

    Your friends would have to go to a county hospital where they are forced by law to treat the poor and indigent- as opposed to a private hospital.

  • eurorrocket

    So here's why I don't think I'll bother replying to any of your posts again YugoStiglitz. You said, "…full confidence in expressing anti-American opinions." WHat actually happened was someone criticised something that happened or happens in America. It doesn't make it anti-American. It's like when people criticise the policing at demonstrations in the UK, it doesn't make the opinion anti-British or even anti-Police in any general sense. It is a criticism of certain events and certain people at a certain time.
    Your thinking is consistent with people who want to conflate criticism of Israel with being anti-Israel or even anti-semitic.

    • YugoStiglitz

      I don't have a problem with people criticizing America. I do it all the time. I have a problem with anti-Americans, who have no idea what they're talking about, criticizing America.

      And then you had to pull that bullshit line about Israel. Over and over again, I hear people highly critical of Israel whining and whining and whining about how they're accused of anti-Semitism whenever they criticize Israel. It simply not true.

      However, it is true that people like you whine and whine and whine.

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