Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The US Healthcare Bill

Well, the House of Representatives eventually passed the bill, and estimates are that over thirty million Americans currently without health insurance will get it and that only 15000, rather than 30000, will die each year because they don't have it.

In all honesty, the bill is still pretty damn weak and is nowhere near the universal coverage enjoyed by people in this country and in fact every other developed country other than the United States. But, considering how horrendously painful its passage has been, as well as the lives it will save (it will also save money, but that isn't enough to persuade the repuglicans that it's an acceptable idea, because insurance companies will make slightly less obscene profits as a result of it), it is a vital first step. Most Americans wanted the bill passed, indeed the majority wanted a better, stronger version, despite repuglican outright lies claiming the opposite-- and more will come around when the apocalyptic consequences disgracefully, disingenuously and dishonestly put forward by opponents don't come to pass and when their friends and neighbours as well as themselves find life just a little bit easier because it has passed. Fewer Americans will lose their homes or their lives as a result of having no health insurance, maybe it will even stop being the number one cause of bankruptcy in the country-- a simply unimaginable fact in the rest of the world, in what I call the civilised world, where countries take care of their citizens.

It's a start. For the American people and for President Obama. It gives his administration, which was born among so much hope and optimism, a chance to come good after more than a year of mostly disappointing events.

The League Cup Final

Not one for my north American readers, this, but my team Rangers won the Scottish League Cup (officially known these days as the Co-operative Insurance Cup) on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Saint Mirren, the local team in Paisley, where I now live, and the team supported by my brother-in-law and all three of my Paisley-living nephews, and one of my nieces. In my defence at not supporting the local team, I wasn't born here and Rangers, as well as being the biggest and most successful club in Scotland (and reigning champions and probably about to be again), play their home games just about three miles from where I was brought up and were my local team as a boy.

In the game, though, Saint Mirren were by far the better team. They had possession of the ball about two thirds of the time, an amazing statistic in any game, especially by a small club playing against Rangers. And Rangers had not one but two players sent off (thrown out of the game and can't be replaced) so Saint Mirren were playing for quite a while with eleven against nine. But they didn't have the quality of goalscorer to put the ball in the net, and with seven minutes left Rangers broke forward and scored a beautiful goal with an excellent cross and wonderfully accurate header.

The Saints fans were gutted, of course. I have it on good authority that it was the most galling defeat they've had since a game some years ago against a Swedish team whose name begins with H (out of courtesy to family and friends I'm not actually going to name that team), and indeed Saint Mirren forums were discussing urgently whether this one might be even worse before deciding that it wasn't, quite. For probably the first time in my life, when I saw the inevitable shot of a wee boy in the other team's colours crying his eyes out, I didn't laugh immoderately but felt my heart go out to him, and to all the Saint Mirren supporters.

For that reason (well, okay, not ONLY that reason) I was delighted when, this evening, the Saints went out and won 4-0 against Celtic, the second best team in Scotland and Rangers' historic and eternal bitter rivals, the other half of the "Old Firm" who have utterly dominated Scottish football over the years and decades. That result also means that Rangers would now have to lose six of their last ten games in the league to have any chance of throwing their title away, having lost just one of about forty eight in the last year and a bit. So I'm probably twice as happy as the Saint Mirren fans.

Ach well, it's only a game. Apparently.