Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jimmy Carter on Tavis Smiley's Show

Want to learn something about which you thought you already know? Watch Jimmy Carter's interview on Tavis Smiley from October 25, 2010:

Issues covered included the Supreme Court decision earlier this year that paved the way for unlimited corporate contributions. Carter succinctly details the results of huge secret contributions to candidates that the law allows to be hidden; US dealings with China as the world economy shrinks--Carter's been there and has a better understanding than anything you'll hear in the mainstream media.

He reminisces about working with congress on a bipartisan level that is gone in our times. If the republicans win back the House, it might be OK after all because then blame can't fall on the democrats for everything wrong in our society.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Paid-For Republican Takeover

Not that the dems don't do it--use huge amounts of money to buy ads to win elections. But since Watergate, there were supposed to be some controls on this system of who donated what funds to whom...

“It creates all the appearances of dirty dealings and undue influence because our candidates are awash in funds the public is ignorant about,” said Roger Witten, a partner in the New York office of WilmerHale, who served as assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate special prosecution force. “This is the problem that was supposedly addressed after Watergate.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/weekinreview/17abramson.html?_r=1

Does the average citizen care? Does he or she vote? Think of all that money going to charities, like Haitians who are struggling because of the earthquake, or the mess left over from Katrina...or bailing out homeowners who want to make mortgage payments but can't because of the wrong choices of their elected representatives.

But this isn't new news:

"In 1907, direct corporate donations to candidates were legally barred in a campaign finance reform push by President Theodore Roosevelt. But that law and others — the foundation for many Watergate convictions — are all but obsolete. This is why many supporters of strict campaign finance laws are wringing their hands."http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/weekinreview/17abramson.html?_r=1

(Very nicely researched and written by JILL ABRAMSON of New York Times.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

[Vaccine] Side Effects That Were Unavoidable

The meaning of the title of this post is up for grabs in the Supreme Court in a vaccine case against drug company Wyeth, now owned by drug giant Pfizer. It's a complicated case in legalities, and which court should be hearing the arguments, and more jargon and nonsense.

What it's really about, is that a little girl was severely harmed by a vaccine years ago, and several years later that vaccine was removed from the market because it was so dangerous. Yet the courts say the proof is not there that the vaccine was at fault.

"...case turns on the text of the federal law, which bars ordinary lawsuits “if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings.”

Much of the argument concerned the meaning of the word “unavoidable.”
“The language that they used is certainly, to say the least, confusing,” Justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg said." [NY TIMES]

The Obama administration sides with Wyeth. The record of the FDA in coming to the aid of US public health is so abominable, it makes the reference to it in the following quote worse than any Comedy Central punch line:

"The U.S. government filed a brief and argued on behalf of Wyeth, with assistant to the solicitor general Benjamin J. Horwich telling the court that the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control make determinations about which vaccines are safe and effective, and it should stay that way.

'It would be extraordinary to institute a system where juries would be second guessing a decision' by federal experts, he said." [Post-Gazette]

As they say in the movie business, "What a throw-away line!" Any jury would have the benefit of input from various experts from all sides--and in this age of skepticism of government oversight, from Katrina on down to the recent multi-million-egg recall, who wants to have the sole last word on vaccine safety be the FDA and CDC? Hands please?

"Justice Sonia Sotomayor, meanwhile, seemed to sympathize with the argument that manufacturers could keep less safe vaccines on the market without a legal incentive.

'What is the motivation for manufacturers to continue testing [vaccines] and voluntarily stopping [sales] if a better design is found somewhere else?' she asked. 'I don't see why they should stop before they cause as many injuries as they need to before the FDA tells them to stop.' " [Post-Gazette]

--A voice of clarity amidst the dense fog.

Foreigners in Our Midst

I met an interesting Guatemalan yesterday. He spoke English very well, with a noticeably excellent vocabulary, and a Spanish accent. He was picking through my recycle trash barrel trying to secure bottles and various plastic items to bring to a recycle center in return for a small amount of cash.

I walked down the driveway with 2 more bags to see if he could use anything more--gallon milk cartons and empty cleaning bottles. He was very thankful, and then I asked where he was from.

He has three children who are not US citizens and he said it's too dangerous to bring them here without documents. He himself has papers so he's not in fear of deportation, but he said he must return home to Guatemala because of his family.

He had a job as well as picking through trash, but every little amount helps. I asked him about life in Guatemala, and he said it has bad sections, like parts of Los Angeles--maybe not that bad--and good sections, like where he goes to find recyclables.

It was very hot standing in the 90 degree afternoon sun, so I broke off the conversation to get him a bottle of water. I offered him $5--in my mind it was a token confirmation that at least one American citizen doesn't believe all immigrants are lazy drones sponging off the rest of our immigrant-descended society.

He refused my handout! So I explained it was a small payment for a short interview that would go into my book about bigotry in this country. Then he thanked me.