Thursday, November 03, 2005

Transparent Corruption: How Deep Can This Guano Get?

Let's see: From multiple news sources, we now have Karl Rove hoping he's dodged the bullet I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby took last Friday, and that Rove "may offer a formal apology" (apology not accepted, if it's offered -- how do we usurp this unelected all-too-powerful figure?); Wilkerson continuing to detail the extreme power wielded by Vice (indeed) President Dick Cheney and the methodology of that "cabal" with Rumsfeld to shape government policy (and intelligence) to their whim, foreign and domestic; all while Cheney aggressively refuses sanction of, and fights, a bill (prepared in part by former Vietnam POW and torture survivor Senator John McCain, who Rove and Bush handily slandered in the initial Bush Presidential campaign) which will force his torture state to cease ongoing torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees (what possible spin can be placed on this by any but the most rabid pro-torture advocates, however much they claim otherwise?); and Tom DeLay's attornies have managed the dismissal of the Texan judge previously assigned to his case due to political affiliations displeasing to DeLay (hmmm, does that mean he gets to choose a judge to his liking -- meaning a ReBiblican? This just gets richer every step of the way). They are, of course, also campaigning for a change of venue, while publicly attacking the prosecutor (with foaming attack dog TV commercials). All while Bush's recent choice of right-wing Third Circuit Court of Appeals judge Samuel Alito to replace critical swing-voter Judge Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court stirs the pot, and not coincidentally tipping the Supreme Court further still to the right if Alito is indeed seated. Meanwhile (can you stand it?), corporations continue to cancel (thus fleece) retirement and health-care policies for their workers with the sanction of our government (even as the corporate CEOs behind this latest abuse pocket spiralling, mind-bending bonuses and pay). Relevent to which, in a clear vote along partisan lines, the first proposed minimum raise hike in almost a decade (the last was in '97) is defeated by a corrupt Senate who have hiked their own pay almost annually since '97. Quote:

"U.S. senators -- who draw salaries of $162,100 a year and enjoy a raft of perks -- have rejected a minimum wage hike from $5.15 an hour to $6.25 for blue-collar workers. The proposed increase was sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and turned down in the Senate by a vote of 51 against the boost and 49 in favor. . . All the Democrats voted for the wage boost. All the negative votes were cast by Republicans. Four Republicans voted for it..." (quoted from Helen Thomas's article, Hearst News)

You got that? Four Republicans voted for it. 51 against, after having voted in their own pay raises a short while ago. Don't take my word for it -- go to:
  • Minimum Pay Raise Crushed

  • Having worked at minimum wage myself (most recently just after that '97 wage "hike"), and with many friends (and two young adult offspring) who eke out paltry livings working at or just above minimum wage, sans any benefits, I can tell you it's impossible to make ends meet in any way working for minimum wage (though many of you know that from hard experience).

    This isn't a joke. If the goal is spreading poverty, they're succeeding admirably.

    In conjunction with that decision, hunger in the US has now officially increased 43% since Bush assumed the throne. "The House Agriculture Committee approved budget cuts Friday that would take food stamps away from an estimated 300,000 people and could cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 40,000 children. The action came as the government reported that the number of people who are hungry because they can't afford to buy enough food rose to 38.2 million in 2004, an increase of 7 million in five years. The number represents nearly 12 percent of U.S. households." That from Libby Quaid at the Associated Press -- go to:
  • GOP Slashes Food Stamps, Lunch Programs

  • That as we move into winter with the highest heating oil (and thus all heat source) prices in our lifetimes. Stave off the cold or starve? That's the choice many face starting as soon as the cold hits.

    That's just the tip of the garbage in sight this morning.

    As I've said, it's almost impossible to rationally take all this in and articulate it on even the most superficial level without sounding like a raving lunatic. But it's all happening, right now. It's all our collective national reality.

    The latest -- which HomeyM emailed me last week, but which I sat on until finding multiple corroborating sources, including an on-air interview with a UK editor of Fortune magazine on last night's CBC news program As It Happens -- is this gem. Following the ongoing and transparent links between the Bush family (including ex-President Poppa Bush) and various Republican officials and The Carlysle Group and other war-profiteering firms, and the widely-known-and-acknowledged history between Cheney and Halliburton et al, we now have a direct correlation between Donald Rumsfeld and the pharmaceutical firm with controlling proprietary interests in Tamiflu.

    This shines another disturbing light on Monday's sleight-of-hand, "don't-look-there-look-HERE" fear-mongering speech from President Bush, outlined in this excerpt from an October news item (predating Monday's relevent President Bush speech) by Dr. Mercola. Read on, read closely:

    "Rumsfeld To Profit From Bird Flu Hoax

    ...Not long ago, President Bush sought to instill panic in this country by telling us a minimum of 200,000 people will die from the avian flu pandemic, but it could be as bad as 2 million deaths in this country alone. This hoax is then used to justify the immediate purchase of 80 million doses of Tamiflu, a worthless drug that in no way shape or form treats the avian flu, but only decreases the amount of days one is sick and can actually contribute to the virus having more lethal mutations. ...the U.S. placed an order for 20 million doses of this worthless drug at a price of $100 per dose. That comes to a staggering $2 billion.
    ...Roche manufactures Tamiflu and, in a recent 
    New York Times article, they were battling whether or not they would allow generic drug companies to help increase their production.
    ...that a drug was actually developed by a company called Gilead that 10 years ago gave Roche the exclusive rights to market and sell Tamiflu.

    ...Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was made the chairman of Gilead in 1997. Since Rumsfeld holds major portions of stock in Gilead, he will handsomely profit from the scare tactics of the government that is being used to justify the purchase of $2 billion of Tamiflu."

    As I say, I held off posting this until it could be verified by multiple sources. The foreign press has done so, and last night's As It Happens jaw-dropping interview with the UK Fortune editor was the final confirmation I sought. Dr. Mercola continues:

    "If you have been viewing the media you must have seen the scare the media and the president are seeking to orchestrate on you and the public. According to a draft of the government's plan to fight a potentially cataclysmic pandemic, this new bird super-flu could kill nearly 2 MILLION Americans. But I nearly fell out of my seat in the airplane as I was flying back from a conference in Ft. Lauderdale when I read that in the BEST-case scenario, only 200,000 people might die. Then they post the frightening picture from the 1918 flu epidemic to heighten the fear. It just amazes me how they can get away with this type of reporting that is so obviously manipulated by the government and drug companies to scare you into taking the flu vaccine. The popular media continues to reinforce this unbased fear. In the editorial section of the October 17, 2005 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Henry Miller, former director of the Office of Biotechnology at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), seeks to frighten the U.S. public by telling us that the bird flu virus can jump from birds to humans and produce, and is a fatal illness in 50 percent of those infected.

    A 50 percent fatality rate sounds pretty scary to me. What Dr. Miller and the other experts fail to explain is how these numbers were derived. Did they examine everyone who contracted the bird flu and use those numbers, or did they examine the sickest of the sick who had come down with the bird flu and determine the mortality rate from there? Of course, it was the latter, and from the 60 people who have died from this in THIRD-world countries we are being told that anywhere from 200,000, AT BEST, to 2 million people at worst will die from the bird flu. This is shoddy science at best and beyond belief that any reputable scientist could get away with such nonsense.

    ...The bird flu epidemic hoax reminds me just how uncommon "common sense" is. Folks, where is the sound basic science here? How do they make the giant leap of faith that 60 deaths will translate to 2 million or even 200,00 deaths in the United States from a virus that does NOT readily spread from birds to humans, or humans to humans?
    Most of the people who acquired this infection were bird handlers who were in continuous contact with these sick birds. Does anyone in their right mind envision similar circumstances in the United States?

    ...What might the purpose of these scare tactics be you ask?
    Well how about the United States purchasing huge quantities of antiviral drugs and an increase in flu vaccine production, along with purchasing 20 million doses of the highly questionably effective Tamiflu. Guess how much one treatment of Tamiflu costs?  Give yourself a slap on the back if you guessed $100. So those 20 million doses the government has authorized will cost U.S. taxpayers $2 BILLION."

    Which, natch, profits Donald Rumsfeld and his cronies handsomely.

    "...Now I think very few of us would mind if this drug actually worked and prevented even a few people from dying. But does it do that? Not really. About all anyone can expect from this drug is that it might make the symptoms a bit less severe."

    BTW, this has now been confirmed by multiple sources; see the link, provided below, if you seek more information.

    "On the downside, (aside from setting you back $100) Dr. Tenpenny explained in her Flu TeleClinic last week that Tamiflu can actually cause the virus to mutate into a more dangerous and potent viral strain. Recently, U.S. Congress asked Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, to suspend its patent and have others make it because they could not likely keep up with the demand, but of course Roche refused saying Tamiflu is hard to make and it would take another company three years to "get up to speed." What they were really saying is they could care less about the public. What their primary focus was on was to not share their windfall profits mandated by the U.S. Congress."

    The good doctor goes on to note, "...let us not forget the flu shots that many will get when they confuse bird flu with the regular flu. Please understand, even if you believe the flu shots work, the flu shot you can now purchase is in no way, shape or form designed to protect you against the bird flu. They are completely different strains. (Bird flu is H5N1 strain). But rest assured the makers of flu vaccines will not lose this unusal opportunity to rape the American public for even more profits. Recently we learned that those getting the flu shots may see a 25 percent increase in prices at clinics, doctors' offices and medical centers because of increases in the wholesale cost of the vaccines.

    ...Meanwhile, the "Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005" (S. 1873), recently passed out of the U.S. Senate HELP Committee one day after it was introduced. The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is calling the bill "a drug company stockholder's dream and a consumer's worst nightmare." This bill, spurred by bird flu fears, will broadly eliminate corporate liability for vaccines and drugs. This bill will soon go to the full Senate for a vote.... The proposed legislation, nicknamed "Bioshield Two," is being pushed rapidly through Congress without time for voters to make their voices heard by their elected representatives. It will strip Americans of the right to a trial by jury if they are harmed by a drug or vaccine that they are forced by government to take, whenever federal health officials declare a public health emergency. The bill establishes the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), as the single point of authority within the government for research and development of drugs and vaccines in response to bioterrorism and natural disease outbreaks. BARDA will operate in secret, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, insuring that no evidence of injuries or deaths caused by drugs and vaccines labeled as "countermeasures" will become public. This proposed legislation is an unconstitutional attempt by some in Congress to give a taxpayer-funded handout to pharmaceutical companies for drugs and vaccines the government can force all citizens to use, while absolving everyone connected from any responsibility for injuries and deaths which occur."

    We've all seen how this current Administration has stood up against (cough, cough) the power pharmaceutical lobbies.

    So, as the grip "The War on Terror" held over our collective populace for the past five years wanes daily, we now have this new batch of blatant fear-mongering, all calculated to profit Bush's key cronies once again while further empowering corporations orchestrated and fanning the flames.

    Lest you think sanctioning blanket indemnity for vaccine and pharmaceutical firms is a great idea, remember the 5 million swine-flu vaccine program of three decades ago. "The hastily contrived program for swine flu resulted in hundreds of Guillain Barre Syndrome paralysis victims as well as countless deaths for a flu pandemic that never materialized." At the time, investigative journalist Ida Honorof (then recipient of a first prize award from Associated Press for investigative journalism) called that swine-flu pandemic fear-mongering and the resulting vaccination program "The most brazen, obscene electioneering ploy" profered by that standing President "and his coterie of scientific hacks, fabricated to cause pure unadulterated panic and guarantee political capital, rammed through without consideration of people's health and lives and approved by a band-wagon Congress..."

    So give this some thought and do some homework before you embrace the panic.

    The Martians have not landed in New Jersey, nor has the avian flu erupted.

    The reality is, and remains, that 60 people have died out of less than 200 infected to date, worldwide, period. Is there cause for concern? Yes, but as all responsible medical authorities have stated and restated since Monday's speech, no flu vaccination effective against such a possible pandemic yet exists, nor can it exist until that strain of flu manifests itself.

    This is more fear-mongering from a President and Administration desperate to divert the attention of the American people from the consequences of their own blatant abuses of power and increasingly evident corruption.

    It is transparent and the same mechanism, in a new guise, that they have relied upon from the beginning of their initial Presidential campaign.

    It is also, sadly typical of this Administration, orchestrated to profit their own.

    They are frightening you as they fleece you, and all of us.

    For more information on the medical view of this situation, go to:
  • Rumsfeld Makes Out

    Blogger Jim Pinkoski said...

    Steve, it's good to see that you like to keep up on current events -- did you hear about Steven Levitt's FREAKONOMICS book? He's an econ prof at the University of Chicago who came up with some very clever insights into how society works -- and here are the two main observations he made in his best-selling book:

    1) The crime rate in the 1990s went down because of the millions of aborted babies via Roe v. Wade in the 1970s! (Those children would have been raised in poor households and very likely would have turned to crime in their late teens and twenties -- but because they "did not exist" in the 1990s the crime rate went down!)

    2) The Superman radio show of the mid-1940s was used to stop people from joining the KKK!

    Check out his book!

    Blogger Jim Pinkoski said...

    Steve --

    Did you pick up a copy of STAR WARS III that came out on Nov. 1st? What did you think of the film? Have you gotten my SF#2 Star Wars Commentary issue yet?

    Also, the new ALIENS novel is about to come out -- ALIENS, ORIGINAL SIN -- are you looking forward to it?

    Blogger Stu said...

    Since you were just posting about The Engine, here's a link to a thread about bird flu lead by a guy who seems to know his stuff. The relevant posts are #17 and #28.

    Yes, there's scare-mongering, and yes pharmaceutical companies and politicians will jump on any available gravy train, and yes that estimate of 2 million deaths is extremely high, but there is genuine concern in the scientific community about a bird flu pandemic. And when Dr. Mercola says something like:

    Please understand, even if you believe the flu shots work, the flu shot you can now purchase is in no way, shape or form designed to protect you against the bird flu. They are completely different strains. (Bird flu is H5N1 strain).

    ...he sets off my "quack" alarm. First off, "even if you believe the flu shots work"? What? Second, they aren't designed for protection against H5N1; that is correct. But a flu pandemic would be caused by H5N1 mutating with one of the currently circulating flu strains to become human-to-human transmissable. If you have been vaccinated against the pre-existing strain, that may well confer protection during a pandemic. It is, at the very least, a sensible precaution.

    Blogger Madame W said...

    Hello Steve,
    Mr Martin sent us your blog as an example of just how nuts us liberals are, and I must say I am in complete sympathy with your worldview.
    And why the heck isn't that Rumsfeld/Tamiflu connection in the mainstream media anyway?

    Mary Woodring
    (Jim tried to post but couldn't manage it so here I am.)

    Blogger SRBissette said...

    Ah, let's see -- Yes, I read Freakonomics; sooo, does point #1 stand as a pro-abortion stance? However, note that incarceration (almost entirely due to the "War on Drugs") rates escalated in the 1990s, which is another matter I'll ramble about next week. And YAY! for Superman! BTW, the new Supermen DVD set collecting the first season of the first TV series is worth a look, and much more than just a walk down memory land.

    I saw Star Wars III twice in theaters; it was (sorry to say) a visually rich but dramatically bankrupt mess, sporting the most leaden, vapid dialogue to ever grace a big-budget production (and that's going some). The 'birth' of Darth Vader had the audience in hysterics: it played like the dance number in Young Frankenstein. All in all, it's the Showgirls of sf films. Lucas has lost every ounce of storytelling skill he amply demonstrated in his 1970s films, and it's a sorry spectacle. Interesting to note, though, that the mystical elements you've interpreting in one way in your comic, Jim (for which I thank you) -- as have others -- was linked by Lucas himself (in his Rolling Stone interview of August 1977) to Carlos Casteneda's writings.

    No, I'll be skipping the Aliens novel. I've only read a couple, and wrote one myself (the novella Aliens: Tribes, which cooled me to the whole process as writer and reader.
    Still, enjoy it! My sf reading these days leans to excavating pre-20th Century sf, which I'm enjoying on all sorts of levels.

    Sensible precautions are prudent, and that's not what I'm writing about here, Stu. I'm not dismissing any concern whatsoever -- I hope to have a flu shot this year (now that I'm 50; previous years it was simply denied) if only to offer some shelter against the existing flu strains that are inevitable this time of the year -- but the avian flu pandemic "red alert" is suspect, especially given circumstances and the context of the times.

    When the best one can do is just STAY HOME if the worse happens, and the very social services millions hang on for day-to-day well-being were cut within four days of Bush's Monday speech, I stand by my blog writing on the matter. PUBLIC HEALTH has NOT been a matter of concern for this Administration, or the Republicans in general for 20 years; they've eroded the health care system beyond repair, and we'll all be paying that piper one time or another.

    Look, if Rumsfeld's association were a fluke, an aberration, and not part of a clear pattern in this Administration's behavior, one could dismiss it as coincidence. After all, Rumsfeld is a very rich man, and has ties to countless sources of income and wealth. But coming on the heels of the links I noted -- Bush family and Carlysle Group, Cheney and Halliburton, all in public view since the first campaign -- such associative links between our most prominent public officials and their financial interests become more blatant and offensive conflicts-of-interest between the "public good" our leader espouse on the one hand, and their shameless profiteering on the other. The utter LACK of concern from the public at large is disgusting, demonstrating how far astray from true democracy we've been led.

    Hey, Mary! Hello to Jim! Glad my nutso liberal rants have brought us together. Glad my post is circulating, whatever the reason. You know, I loooooove Mark and Jeannie, but cross myself, Tuco-like, every time I pass that chilling photo of George and Laura Bush on their fridge. Brrrrrr.

    Blogger SRBissette said...

    Building on that "Brrrrrr!", a completely pragmatic take on the realities behind the spread of diseases -- including either ordinary strains of flu (which take a terrible toll, and many lives, annually) or extraordinary strains, such as those our Fearmongering Leader soapboxed about -- would include a rational, down-to-earth attention to (a) HEAT in a winter that promises to have millions choosing between fundamental survival issues like food vs. heat, and (b) preventive health care rather than "after the fact" reactionary health care. The latter requires either a pro-active social network of protective, prevention-oriented health care for all, including the poorest/youngest/weakest, and an economy that provides an adult working two jobs at minimum wage the means to pay the rent AND the heating bills.

    I'm already seeing ex-co-workers at my prior job wondering how the fuck they're going to survive this winter, despite full-time employ (at more than one job, in one case), and neighbors who just managed to cover property taxes wondering how to keep warm if we get a harsh winter.

    A cold, hungry, overworked, underpaid populace is, by definition, vulnerable.

    Look -- we won't need an as-yet-unknown permutation of a virulent imaginary flu to take lives this winter: it's a certainty, given the base economics.

    If this Administration's lip service, a'la Monday's speech, meant anything except fear-mongering to serve their own agenda (the tactic of choice for over five years, inclusive of the first campaign), we would not be seeing the sucker punches of minimum wage raises denied and social services slashed to continue the financing of their transparently corrupt and destructive agenda (including the Iraq War, tax cuts for the wealthy 2%, and rampant corporate welfare for the very corporations reporting record profits in 2005).

    This is madness.


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