The Real Enemy…timidity, selfishness and greed.

But the real enemy, the one we have always been at war against, is the violence and despair of our own timidity, selfishness, and greed. For too long, we have responded to this enemy with appeasement. But appeasement has proven to be a losing strategy, as indeed it always is. The only way we will have any chance of overcoming the challenge of our present moment is by bringing everyone together, emphasizing our common cause, and committing to building institutions that reflect and reinforce basic notions of universal solidarity.  Rohan Grey, The Nation Magazine.

capitalism

Why Free Market Capitalism Will Bury Us, Literally

capitalism

Amid the absurdly trivial corporate media coverage of the Coronavirus crisis, are stories that slip by unnoticed.  One of them is another investigation, another investigation by a congressional subcommittee about whether “the U.S. government is paying too much for ventilators made by a Dutch company that received millions in tax dollars to develop an affordable one for pandemics, but is now charging quadruple the price under a new deal.”

The deal for the ventilators was struck between the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Division of the Dutch Company.  (See other stories in Propublica).

In 2014, the agency’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) struck a $13.8 million deal with the company to develop ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile. Based on the advice of experts, the agreement called for the devices to be low cost, portable, durable and easy to use by personnel with limited medical training.

Once Philips’ Respironics division received clearance for that ventilator from the Food and Drug Administration last year, BARDA ordered 10,000 of them for $3,280 each — a price agreed upon when Philips entered into the original deal in 2014.

As Propublica previously reported, Philips never produced any of those devices for the stockpile. Instead, as the coronavirus spread, the company manufactured commercial versions of the ventilator at its factory outside Pittsburgh and sold them for far higher prices overseas. Then, rather than pushing the company to accelerate the delivery of the ventilators developed for the stockpile, HHS this month agreed to buy 43,000 of the commercial version at a price of $15,000 per ventilator.

But once Philips got the crucial FDA clearance for the new design, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said, “they turn around — at the very time we most need these ventilators — and use the fruits of taxpayers’ dollars to essentially sell a high-margin version of what taxpayers wanted to foreign consumers and deprioritized the sales of what taxpayers wanted.”

Notes:

Contact  Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. The subcommittee falls under the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Article: Callahan, Patricia and Sebastian Rotella (4/16/20) Congress is investigating…” Propublica

 

BOOK: Death in Mud Lick. Corporate Crime, Greed and Destruction

Review of Death in Mud Lick

Dwight Garner, “How Painkiller Pushers Took over Coal Country.” nyt

Eric Eyre, the reporter who wrote this book, won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2017.  One of the important things he did was to expose, for the first time, in exact numbers, opioid shipments to West Virginia.  These were eye-opening statistics that made the responsibility for this crisis real to many people.

In the book, Eyre started with a story of one pharmacy in Kermit, WV, population 382.  In two years, the Sav-Rite in Kermit distributed nearly nine million opioid pain pills to its customers.  People were driving hundreds of miles to get to this particular pharmacy, bypassing other pharmacies.  Once there, the lines were so long, the owner sold hot dogs and popcorn to people waiting in the drive-in lane.

Most of the recipients started off with some kind of injury, usually work related.  But they very quickly found doctors willing to write prescriptions for pain medication and anti-anxiety drugs on top of that.  The toll was soon to follow – addicted babies, full jails, families destroyed, hospital emergency rooms overrun.

Eyre, unlike many journalists covering the same story, went after the big fish in the story, not the cash rich pharmacy owners or even the corrupt doctors, but the real high-level drug pushers.  He called what happened in West Virginia “a man-made disaster fueled by corporate greed and corruption.”

Eyre, for example, took aim at Cardinal Health (a drug wholesaler), which “sent more pain pills into West Virginia than any other company.”  Between 2007 and 2012, Cardinal sent a combined 240 million pills into WV.  That was 130 pain pills for every resident.  “The coal barons,” Eyre wrote, “no longer ruled Appalachia. Now it was the painkiller profiteers.”

Among the long list of villains in this story is West Virginia’s Trump loving attorney general, Patrick Morrisey.  Morrisey tried to derail Eyre’s investigation of Cardinal at the same time his (Morrisey’s) wife was being paid to lobby for the company.  According to Eyre (4/28/18) “Cardinal Health paid Denise Morrisey and her lobbying firm $1.4 million after her husband became attorney general…”

Morrisey also had ties to the company of his own.

At the same time his wife was lobbying on behalf of Cardinal Health, Morrisey’s office was overseeing a lawsuit that accused Cardinal Health of “fueling the opioid epidemic by shipping excessive amounts of hydrocodone and oxycodone to the state.”

Morrisey stepped aside from the case only after the Charleston Gazette reported that his inaugural party was paid for by Cardinal Health.

In 2008, Cardinal Health paid a $34 million fine to settle allegations that it had shipped hydrocodone to rogue Internet pharmacies that filled bogus prescriptions.  In 2016, Cardinal Health paid $44 million for opioid shipping violations.

MORRISEY IS STILL WEST VIRGINIA’S ATTORNEY GENERAL.

MORRISEY NARROWLY LOST HIS BID TO BECOME A U.S. SENATOR.

CARDINAL HEALTH IS STILL IN BUSINESS.

MORRISEY’S WIFE IS STILL A LOBBYIST FOR THE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY.

ERIC EYRE LEFT THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL LAST WEEK.

 

 

 

 

Notes:

Eyre (4/28/18) https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/politics/morrisey-s-wife-lobbied-on-opioids-for-drug-firm-disclosures/article_be3d9ee8-00e1-570c-b161-c7b59c7c31d0.html

Cardinal Health lists on its website: “Cardinal Health: We Supply Everything You Need.

Heller, Matthew ()“Cardinal Health Fined $8M for FCPA violations.”  https://www.cfo.com/legal/2020/03/cardinal-health-fined-8m-for-fcpa-violations/

Review in New York Times: Death in Mud Lick

“We Don’t Have Time.”

trump 4

The disaster that is the Trump administration reaction to and handling of the Coronavirus crisis has been decades in the making.  It is the result of raising to seriousness for political purposes, willful ignorance, superstition, and an anti-science bias.

The right and the Republican Party saw political benefit in cultivating those traits in the population.  They knew, as a minority party, ignorance and superstition would help them gain and maintain political power.

They were right.  But now, we are in the position of having people who don’t believe in government running an enormous advanced industrialized government at a time when a coordinated government response to the Coronavirus is essential.

We also have a complaint, cowardly, mediocre corporate media whose biggest and most powerful stars can only find the courage to tearfully plead with the Trump administration to show leadership (Jake Tapper today.)  They are pleading with people who think “believing” in science is optional, and that government is not there to help people, but to line the pockets of the rich.

At the absurd dog-and-pony show that is the daily press briefing, reporters use precious time asking questions like 1) Does the First Lady wear a mask? And 2) Why we don’t fix the roads while everybody is at home.

Meanwhile, right in front of our faces, Donald Trump and his administration, like snake oil salesmen, tout drugs which they maintain will treat the Coronavirus to distract attention away from the fact that they have failed miserably to run the government they are in control of and are doing nothing but trying to find a way to profit off the crisis.

When asked today how he could justify touting unproven drugs, Trump responded: “We don’t have time…to test it out.”  We don’t have time to test it out.  Just think about that.  We don’t have time to test the drugs to see if they work before we use tax-payer money to stockpile the drugs.  We don’t have time to test the drugs to see if they work before we recommend people use them.  Anybody who knows anything about the scientific method knows that this kind of statement is insane.  INSANE.

You don’t even have to know something about the scientific method to know that this is idiocy.  You just need some common sense.  Why would you take a drug you had no idea was effective in treating the condition you were suffering from?  Why?

We don’t have time to test the drugs out, Trump continues, “with the test tubes and the laboratories.”  He says this like the testing of drugs with test tubes and laboratories is self-indulgent lark that people might want to do for fun if the situation wasn’t so serious.  This is the talk of a man who has no idea what science is.  He is as willfully ignorant and superstitious as the people who were courted by the Republican party and cultivated by Fox News.

It is bad enough to have a political party that cynically uses ignorance and superstition to get elected.  It is quite another to have people in charge who are themselves ignorant and superstitious.  It may well be deadly in a world where technology is the key to survival and to mass extinction.

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Action Raised the Democras’ Ire

Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, walks to meet with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, after the Senate voted to not allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

The Trump Administration is using every method available to centralize power in the United States and transform what once was a democracy into an authoritarian kleptocratic state.  The Democrats are sitting by and allowing them to do it.

Friday night, Trump fired Michael Atkinson, the senior official who first alerted Congress that a whistleblower complaint had been filed that eventually led to Trump’s impeachment.  With the excuse that he no longer had confidence in Atkinson, Trump sent a clear signal through the government service.  If you challenge Trump, even if in doing so you are only carrying out your job, you will be destroyed.

 

Donald Trump is settling scores and sending a warning.  And, this is the kind of government 50% of the population wants?

 

But, instead of doing anything about this situation, Democrats are wringing their hands, again.  Mark Warner complained that the action was “unconscionable.”  Nancy Pelosi scolded.  But, what is going to be the result?  Nothing.

 

In February, Trump appointed Richard Grenell, a former Fox News contributor whose only credentials seemed to be his personal loyalty to Trump, as head of all the U.S. spy agencies, the NSA, the FBI, and the CIA.

 

This was said to have raised the “ire” of the Democrats.

 

By the time the coronavirus crisis is over the Republicans under Trump will have consolidated power in this country and so disrupted the voting process that getting them out office will be impossible.

 

Meanwhile the Democrats are giving lectures and rigging the Democratic nomination process to benefit the worst candidate in the field.

 

Welcome to America.

Interesting Books: Patriotic Dissent

You can listen to an interview with the author on the podcast “Scheer Intelligence.”  https://www.kcrw.com/culture/shows/scheer-intelligence

 

 

 

 

Thursday Night Blog Notes: Scams, Coronavirus, Free-For-All, Meaningless Statistics, Trump, Corruption, Graft, Greed

Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, walks to meet with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, after the Senate voted to not allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

Thursday Night Blog Notes

  • I can’t even keep up with the Trump scams surrounding this coronavirus crisis.
  • Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, is claiming that he just now learned that asymptomatic people could pass on the coronavirus to other people.
  • Every day there’s another presser with Trump congratulating corporate CEOs and touting meaningless statistics.
  • The Republicans are all over twitter congratulating private industry for “contributions” and “donations.” So, the people in this country who pay taxes, are reliant on donations, charity from big business to get them through a crisis.
  • This entire Trump/Repubican approach is designed to school people that the government cannot/will not help them if them are in need.
  • The Federal Government, however, under the Republicans will give $500 billion of public money to corporations.
  • According to Mehdi Hasan, South Korea and Japan’s unemployment rates are nothing like we are seeing in this country.
  • The Navy is expected to fire the captain who raised an alarm saying that his sailors had the Coronavirus.
  • The Nation is reporting that there is a Democratic primary in Wisconsin on Tuesday and Milwaukee is planning to decrease the polling places from 180 to 10. This is democracy?
  • Trump is complaining on Twitter that the hospitals and states have “insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?)
  • I’ll never, never be able to wrap my mind around the fact that this miserable, moronic, corrupt, tasteless, bastard is president.

Bonfire of the Vanities: The Corporate Free-For-All

Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, walks to meet with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, after the Senate voted to not allow witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

Today’s press conference was even more useless than usual.  Trump has decided to launch some kind of drug war in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis.  I sat and looked into the eyes of the men behind him, men who were uniformly congratulating him, complimenting him, carrying out his will.  Every one of them is dangerous and every one of them needs to be in jail.

And, the press conference was no different from the past ones in that it reinforced the notion that:

-government is there to conduct a prolonged ad for big corporations;

-government has no role in helping people during a crisis;

-science is a hoax;

-the role of the government is to propagandize people into doing things against their self-interest.

Additional Notes from Today:

  1. Lt. Gen. Honore maintained in an interview this week that we have models, models which show from Day 1 what to do in this type of crisis.  I don’t, he said, know why we are not using them.
  2. The EPA is rolling back emissions standards put in place during the Obama Administration.  The federal government, in the middle of a pandemic has time to do the bidding of corporations and lobbyists to make it possible for them to poison us and make more money.
  3. Honore was cautioning in the interview he did with Craig Melvin of MSNBC, that we needed to keep our minds on the inevitable corruption that is going to come along with this crisis.  He noted that pollution affects people of color and poor people more than others.
  4. Reuters (3/31/20) is reporting that this change in efficiency standards will “save automakers upwards of $100 billion in compliance costs.”
  5. This Coronavirus crisis is a Bonfire of the Vanities for corporate interests.
  6. It will be a disaster for the rest of us if we don’t stand up and make them stop.

But, as Sen. Cassidy (and the rest of the Repubican Party) maintain: Capitalism will handle it.

 

 

 

Burning Books: We Won’t Have To

Viktor Orban Meets With Angela Merkel In Berlin

My partner woke up in the middle of the night last night worrying about the Coronavirus.  He wasn’t worried about catching it, me catching it, or buying toilet paper.  He was worried about books.

“All the books are going to be online.”  He said to me this morning as we were lying in bed, propped up side-by-side, drinking coffee and watching the cats harass squirrels raiding the bird feeders attached to the windows.

“Before long books will all be digital and with one key stroke somebody like Trump can change them, change them just like that.”

“There won’t be any need to burn books anymore.”  I said.

“There won’t be any need to burn books.”

It’s not surprising that people like us are worrying about books during this Coronavirus crisis.  The Trump administration is quietly reaching out the evil fingers of authoritarianism all over the social order.  I can almost feel them burrowing their way underneath the covers of the bed every night.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban did not seize power.  The Hungarian Parliament handed it over to him by passing a new law that gives him broad powers supposedly to deal with the Coronavirus.  There is no end date set for these expanded powers and others are so concerned that they are calling for the EU to expel Hungary.

Orban, who has bragged about being the champion of “illiberal democracy” now has the power to jail people who publicize what are viewed as untrue or distorted facts which could alarm people.  No by-elections can be held as long as the law remains in force.  The government has the power to suspend laws.

The new rules can only be lifted with a two-thirds vote of the parliament AND A PRESIDENTIAL SIGNATURE.

Tell me that’s comforting.

https://news.yahoo.com/rule-decree-hungary-reopens-wounds-011612093.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’ve Got Time: The Rich and Powerful Take Advantage of Every Crisis

honore In an interview on MSNBC, Lt. Gen. Honore reminds us to pay attention to what is going on behind the scenes of this crisis.  While the rich and the powerful are wasting time actually dealing with the Convid-19 crisis, they have well enough make sure their pockets are lined.

The bailout package passed last week is just one example.  While containing some provisions for regular people, most of the money is a giant bailout for large corporations.  After Democrats fought for oversight of this slush fund, the President issued a signing statement that he will ignore the oversight.  When asked about this, Nancy Pelosi just said that the Congress will exercise its power.  Right.  Let’s see how that works out.

Even people you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to be pointing out the graft and corruption that is going to be a central part of this crisis, like Lt. Gen. Honore, are sounding the alarm.

In an interview with Crag Melvin on MSNBC, Honore warned that powerful people in the administration had time to change the EPA regulations about companies dumping pollutants into an area known as “Cancer Alley,” in Louisiana.  This dumping always most negatively affects low income and people of color.

We will see more and more of this as the crisis continues.  They will use every opportunity to bilk profits, endanger regular people and steal.  When this is over, they will tell us we can’t afford even basic services.  We cannot let them steal the country during this crisis.