Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Vaccines and Bush’s Power Grab

“I don’t know how you equate a story about the president grabbing power with pharmaceutical corporations increasing production of vaccines.”

That’s the reaction I would expect from a reader of the heading of this post.

I do know, however, the exact coinciding element of these items, and the overriding effect on American society that ensues. The vaccine manufacturers don’t care about the individuals for which their product is made. The US government does not care about the people by whom it is elected and sworn to serve. We the people are indeed the masters of our destinies. We better learn this lesson fast, because we are not nearly as organized as those who would hijack our destinies.

Case in point: I was very gratified, subsequent to my post of June 7 to read a new piece in the New York Review of Books that thoroughly delineated my premise of Bush re-balancing the constitutional balance of powers in his favor. This clear summary of the almost machine-like step-by-step process of usurping constitutional rights guarantees with a nod toward tightening security controls after the events of 9/11, is a blueprint of what might have happened in the unwritten chapters prior to the opening of the grim view of an ultra-fascist future: 1984.

During the presidency of George W. Bush, the White House has made an unprecedented reach for power. It has systematically attempted to defy, control, or threaten the institutions that could challenge it: Congress, the courts, and the press. It has attempted to upset the balance of power among the three branches of government provided for in the Constitution; but its most aggressive and consistent assaults have been against the legislative branch: Bush has time and again said that he feels free to carry out a law as he sees fit, not as Congress wrote it. Through secrecy and contemptuous treatment of Congress, the Bush White House has made the executive branch less accountable than at any time in modern American history. And because of the complaisance of Congress, it has largely succeeded in its efforts.Elizabeth Drew, New York Review of Books June 22, 2006

Gratified I was, like the prognosticator who predicts a major natural disaster and then it happens and thousands are killed. Happy I was not, because the old quote from the opening of the movie, Spartacus, which I saw at age ten 46 years ago, seemed so remote and ancient, and frankly, implausible: The age of the dictator is at hand. And now it seems so imminent.

In the detailed and profound New York Review article, Ms. Drew answers the questions that fall off the reader’s lips. Like why is congress so malleable and unable to counteract Bush’s aggressive moves, which are questionable on constitutional grounds?

Why have the members of Congress been so timorous in the face of the steady encroachment on their constitutional power by the executive branch? Conversations with many people in or close to Congress produced several reasons. Most members of Congress don't think in broad constitutional terms; their chief preoccupations are raising money and getting reelected. Their conversations with their constituents are about the more practical issues on voters' minds: the prices of gasoline, prescription drugs, and college tuition. Or about voters' increasing discontent with the Iraq war.-- Elizabeth Drew, New York Review of Books June 22, 2006

That was easy—our representatives are scared! Just like their constituents.

You can understand that your government doesn’t work for you. Now see how the drug companies don’t give a shit about you either. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun last week, vaccine manufacturers were seeing less profit potential in keeping up the pace. Then the US government stepped in, granted a windfall $1 billion for bird-flu spec r & d, which means better dinners and first-class air fare for the drug company mucky-mucks for a while anyway, since there ain’t much they can work with to make a bird-flu vaccine when there ain’t no bird-flu going around!

"There's an increased government investment," said Dr. Gary Nabel, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' vaccine research center. "That translates into more support for the research and more support for the purchase of vaccines. And that, in turn, increases the interest of companies."--New life seen for vaccine industry, Jonathan D. Rockoff, Baltimore Sun

How does that help us in terms of health care and lower prices for drugs etc? What a stupid question. That isn’t the point. How does the drug company get richer—that’s the point. And as usual Merck--major drug company, manufacturer of Vioxx which was taken off the market due to improprieties in development and injuries to consumers--is on the threshold of great ideas for the big bottom line:

"There really is a large potential," said Christine Fanelle, a spokeswoman for Merck & Co.'s vaccine division, based in West Point, Pa. "The adult and adolescent markets are untapped for vaccines."--New life...

Never mind whether or not this untapped market needs these vaccines or not. And this particular post doesn’t even touch the controversy of vaccine safety, which is enormous.

Just the wording of the officials is enough:

"Over the next five years it's a booming market for vaccines," said Zach Wagner, senior pharmaceuticals analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis.-- New life...

We don’t hear about lives being saved, health care costs being reduced—just “booming market” booms in our heads.

Hope you sleep well tonight—you better believe Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, all of congress, and the big pharma spokespeople are going to sleep deep and soundly, and wake up refreshed in the morning ready to go after us--we the people--another day.

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