Monday, November 09, 2009

Swine at the Trough

I originally didn't want to make this personal, but after some late night thought -- as well as a comment from Jayne that broached the subject -- I don't see why I shouldn't.

I'll let Jayne explain it, by way of what she posted in the comment section of yesterday's quote referencing Goldman Sachs's preferential treatment in securing hundreds of doses of the H1N1 vaccine for its employees, while most other Americans are forced to wait.

I think this is worth putting up on the main page:

"Your 15-month old daughter is on the 'wait list' to get the vaccine. Her pediatrician hasn't received the doses that were supposed to have been delivered over a month ago and says it's 'up to the government' if they end up getting them at all. I'm so glad she has to wait so that the nice people at GS can be taken care of first."

So there you have it. Inara waits while Goldman Sachs executives get to literally bathe in the vaccine if they want.

This was my response, also in the comment section of that post and now moved to the main page:

"This may seem overly simplistic but unfortunately it's also the reality of the situation: You're rich -- not just rich but obscenely rich, and on the backs of the taxpayers who were forced to bail out your asshole folly -- you live. You're poor or middle-class -- you can die. You don't matter one bit. To grab a line from a previous Taibbi column, "Tough, suck on our yachts."

A child living in Queens, New York -- an epicenter of the American swine flu outbreak -- is made to wait for a vaccine until the Masters of the Universe across the river are sufficiently protected. Honestly, if this sort of thing isn't the straw that breaks the back of a very angry public -- I have no idea what will be.

It would be nice if Americans could wake up and realize that most of us will never be one of these people; that dream we were all pitched about how anyone can become a member of the plutocracy and spend their lives drinking champagne out of a Manolo Blahnik or Edward Green while jetting around the globe is in large part a lie. Most of us and our families will spend our lives getting walked on by these people and the unaccountable corporate leviathans they've created in some form or another -- whether we're being hired and fired at their whim, turned down for insurance or health care because we just don't add up to enough on a bank ledger to make us worth saving, or being gambled on and eventually made to pay for the bad, greed-fueled bets that brought the entire global economy to its knees. At some point, the millions and millions of us are going to have to say that we've damn well had enough of the antics of the handful of them. Yes, I realize this is a reductionist-populist way of thinking, but after all we've witnessed over the past couple of years, is there really any way to ignore the truth anymore?

A small group of silver spoon-fed sociopaths take and take and take and amass a staggering volume of wealth -- everyone else ends up on a waiting list to get a flu vaccine.

When did our culture become this immoral -- this inhumane?"

It now dawns on me that in my indignation I left out one complicit party: the government. These corporations wouldn't be able to get away with this shit were it not for a powerful group of bought and paid for lawmakers and politicians who will always put the needs of the people who line their pockets above those of the voters who put them in a position where they could get fat and happy by greedily lapping at the golden teat of big business in the first place.

Something has to give. At some point, somebody's going to have to say "enough is enough" and actually mean it.

It's not going to happen anytime soon, though. Need proof? Just read on:

Bloomberg: Big Pharma's Crime Spree: Pfizer Broke the Law by Promoting Drugs for Unapproved Uses, 31 Deaths from Just One Drug/11.9.09

These assholes are so full of hubris and audacity that they don't even hide -- they'll come right out and admit that they make more money marketing potentially dangerous drugs, even if they do have to pay the occasional multi-million dollar fine, than they would if they played it safe.

You and me? Our health -- our lives?

We're expendable.


Squidboy said...

Pure genius, you are really on a nice roll here. They can't hide forever, people are going to start figuring this out and they are going to pay dearly.

marija said...

I really want your open and honest opinion here: do you think that there is any way to change the present situation other than the 1789 or October revolution route? I don't think that there is any way to change the system, the system itself has to go. I don't know what could replace capitalism at this stage of human history, but like so many other systems it seems to have run its course and maybe it's just a matter of getting a big enough number of disaffected people to start something. Zizek wrote a fantastic article about the fall of communism and the disillusionment that happened to many people who escaped communism only to land in the inhumane jungle that is capitalism. They ended up asking for a more humane system of production. I count myself among his new utopists - I do not long for socialism, but capitalism is clearly the wrong way to go. I would definitely approve the re-introduction of the guillotine as you already suggested.

Chez said...

What we have now isn't even capitalism -- it's corporatism. Although, yes, there are elements of capitalism that some could see as immoral at face value -- greed for its own sake, self-interest above all -- it's the lack of any sort of regulation that's allowed these shitheads to treat us all like pawns and chips in their casino game. According to the tenets of capitalism, when people fuck up a company, it fails -- then another one comes in and takes over. That's how the system works. But that's not how it worked this time; this time when all these interconnected dominoes started to fall at once, we were forced to bail these companies out and keep them afloat. And what's worse -- I mean what's unforgivably unconscionable -- is that these arrogant assholes then turned around and went right back to running things their way, in the dark, playing cryptic little games with our money. They paid billions in bonuses to the people who gang-banged all of us -- and they did it with the money we were forced to give them.

Yeah, that system -- anything that allows that kind of bullshit -- needs to be burned to the ground (figuratively, of course).

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

You're a few days late, but you may still be able to find a Guy Fawkes mask somewhere (try Davie).

Paul said...

Right on, Chez. People need to see that the true liberals (of which there are very few) and the true conservatives (of which there are even fewer) are both half right: The gov't and the corporations are screwing over the average American. It's certainly a plutocracy and the only way to break it is with enough people who shout "Enough!" and obey it no more.

Anonymous said...

This is simply a case of right and wrong. Very few things in life are, but this situation is one of them.

Jester said...

I've been rereading Orwell's 1984. Have you read it lately? You should.

It took 25 extra years, but it's remarkable how close we are. Not the communism, of course, but everything else: the Two Minute Hate, the shoddy products that cost too much, the orthodoxy of thought (and the group-think that goes with it), the dumbing down of vocabulary... the Inner Party.

brite said...

General strike anyone? Unemployment is up, wages are down, the rich are getting obscenely rich.Everyone..every fucking one of us 'little people' should just STOP going to work...I'd give it about 10 days before the paid for politicos would stand up and take notice.Maybe if there's no transport system, no municipal services, no fast food or grocery stores, no fucking nothing for a few days someone might think about 'bailing out' the people who really keep a nation going. Wouldn't a little 'downtime' right about now feel nice?
Either that or bring back the guillotine and the trundle carts because this has got to stop.

Deacon Blue said...

Just want to clarify something from the healthcare side of things, since I write on healthcare/medical/pharma issues and have for some years, from all the perspectives (consumer, medical, research, business).

What Pfizer did was flat out wrong.

However, I don't want anyone to get mixed up about whether using drugs for "off label" purposes (that is, used that are not FDA approved) is inherently wrong.

It isn't.

Many are the times that physicians may prescribe drugs for unapproved uses because of strong anecdotal evidences or growing research that suggests a drug may be helpful for people beyond its currently marketed uses.

Also, there are times when nothing "approved" is working, and physicians need to try whatever they can (with the patient's consent and input) to help.

This is a longstanding and perfectly acceptable thing. If physicians waited on the FDA at ALL times, people would be denied access to useful meds when they most need them.

But that's all about PRESCRIBING and about MEDICAL JUDGMENT.

What Pfizer did was try to encourage physicians toward a goal, as a way to boost business, and get around the fact that they were waiting on clinical studies and/or FDA approval.

That is greed, and that isn't in patients' interests, but in the corporate bottom line.

Just wanted to clarify, lest people start blaming the physicians on a wholesale basis too, since so many people think already that most physicians are in bed with big pharma, and that's not a very accurate portrayal of things.

Again, Chez, this is NO criticism of your blog post nor the Bloomberg story (although I think it is a little simplistic in painting physicians as clueless about on-label vs. off-label)...just a fellow journalist who spotted a potential for some misunderstanding if people start taking this off into other directions.

VOTAR said...

A mass work strike, protest, or any other sort of "revolution" would be doomed to failure because the efficacy of this as a mechanism of change has already been diluted into obscurity. Imagine thousands of people storming Washington, wall Street, whatever, shouting angry protests and carrying signs.

Sound familiar?

Think about it, rising up to challenge "the system" would just look like another looney fringe teabag rally. They've already repeatedly cried wolf, and with such absurdity and bombast, that now everyone is just desensitized to it. The corporations know this, they watched the 912ers, the birthers, all the buffoons, embarrass themselves over trivial and contrived non-issues, noted the general lack of media attention, and now know how unlikely and inconsequential is the collective voice of the angry masses now that a real issue warrants such an outcry. It wouldn't surprise me to learn later that the teabag movement was itself manipulated (like the mytharc of an X-Files plot where the conspirators keep everyone busy with stories of little green men so as to distract humanity from the actual alien invasion plan) with the intent of making us all so accustomed to the idea that we have no real power to affect change, only to make a lot of silly noise that "the system" will ignore anyway. To start talking about Guy Faulk, guillotines, and "Revolution!" even in a figurative sense, just makes you sound like one of them. As long as it's just talk, you are easy to ignore. If enough of us get so angry that it leads to real action, then the participants are nothing more than dismissible fringe lunatics, or at worst, domestic terrorists.

So either way, we're fucked.

brite said...

Yeah Votar, sadly you are correct, I'm still in 'Winston' mode where I have this embedded belief that somehow 'the prols' can get us out of this mess.This is what happened when we let Reagan eviscerate the unions in the 80's.But, let's just for the sake of argument, imagine that a nation wide general strike could be affected.The interwebs are a means...if everyone could tear themselves away from their assbook games and following the latest Paris Hilton tweet.I haven't given hope yet, I believe that there is still some power to be wielded by the people, if only they would wake up and use it.

Rory said...

True story, in Calgary, where I live, the Calgary Flames made a request to the provincial health services to have a special clinic for the swine flu vaccine, essentially bypassing the other priority, high risk groups.

Of course word of this got out, and in the end, two people from Alberta Health Services were fired, (the ones who approved the clinic, but didn't have the authority), and now only young children, pregnant women, and the parents of young children are getting the vaccine.

Goddamn our socialist health care! Really though it has less to do with socialist health care and more to do with the culture and attitude towards corruption in Canada vs the United States.

I'd say you guys are royally fucked.

Manny & Kristine said...

Disgusting. The family and I were able to get the H1N1 mist from Dane's pediatrician ONLY because we have Dane and he's too young to get the vaccine, otherwise we'd be screwed. Great post Chez.

SteveR said...

I agree: a mass sixties-style protest will do absolutely nothing, and in the face of a general strike the fat cats will just batten down the hatches and wait for it to blow over.

Nothing will embarrass the greedy into restraint. They need to be put out of business so they no longer have a hold on the politicians.

But how? We're running out of options.

BenoƮt from Ottawa said...

Let me add a bit, starting with Rory's comment, above. Apparently, all the members of the Calgary Flames (hockey team), and their farm team (fer chrissakes) AND their families were inoculated against H1N1.

Also, "In Moncton, New Brunswick, the local minor-league team, the Moncton Wildcats, had their team vaccinated, as have the Abbotsford, BC, Heat. Professional teams include the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as the Toronto Raptors, an NBA team owned by the Maple Leafs". (1)

Montreal Jewish General queue-jumped its biggest donors.

"Vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline was criticized for immunizing its employees and their families ahead of many priority groups." (2)

"In Ontario, board members at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital got the H1N1 shot last week and the University Health Network is offering the vaccine to its board and executives, along with nurses, doctors, volunteers and other hospital workers." (2)

My point: queue-jumping has probably got more to do with who you know, with whether you're seen as important"; I suspect it may be something similar, if perhaps more exacerbated, in the U.S.

Although "plutocracy" would also be right. A last example: "And in British Columbia, concerns are being raised that several privately-run clinics are offering the H1N1 vaccine to their clients, with virtually no wait time compared to that which Canadians are facing at public clinics. Clients pay several thousand dollars annually to visit such clinics. The concern is that wealthier Canadians can access the vaccine much faster than those who cannot afford to pay such fees, as the United Food and Commercial Workers claimed in a recent statement." (1)



Suzy said...

something about the outrage doesn't feel right. i think somewhere in the middle there is a compromise here. maybe it's just because i work in healthcare and it seems like everyone has access to this if they need it. i work for a health system that has 7 hospitals, 24 medical centers, sees over 3.1 million patients a year and employs 24,000 people. all 24,000 or so current employees have the choice to get this vaccine if they want it. there's not a huge freak out in southeast michigan about this vaccine thing because many insurance companies, hospitals, and government entities prepared pretty well. i'm really sorry some of you folks have had difficulties. i wish i could give you my dose because i sure as heck don't want it - flu vaccines scare the hell out of me. and i hope you all get what you want/need soon. but please, no general strikes. that would hurt so many more people. : )

Suzy said...

one more thing; it appears this is the only thing southeast michigan planned well for in the past several years. and... i understand that we shouldn't tolerate the brashness of ANY company that gets so cocky as some of the big pharma companies sometimes do. but the generalizations have to stop, too. the fact that distribution of vaccine is seeming lopsided in some places doesn't mean that the firms that do have vaccine for their high-risk people did something wrong. they have responsibilities to their employees. if some of my co-workers, for example, thought of it in the reverse where the Henry Ford Health System didn't order enough vaccine for its employees, they'd be pissed and wonder why their EMPLOYER didn't do the right thing. i dunno... sounds like a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario for companies. i wonder what GM and chrysler have done?

slouchmonkey said...

"I say we blow the fuckers up."

Anonymous said...

I don't know, I was busy reviewing the Necessary and Proper clause looking for the part where the government could imprison me if NOT buying insurance.

Commerce CLause maybe?

Anonymous said...

Why don't you come down on your hero, Obama, for not doing something about it? He is, after all, our president.

Norm said...

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

This is just more of Chez's outrageous, much-to-do-about-nothing, trumped up calls to arms to get page views.

Chez, come on.

Chez paints the picture of absurdly wealthy, fat cat executives receiving the vaccine while they light their $5,000 cigars with $100 dollar bills, and so many of you take the bait!

The truth? The CDC left it up to the states to distribute the vaccine (as it should). New York then distributed the vaccine to big employers, and Goldman Sachs was one chosen, along with Citigroup, New York University, oh, and mega news outlet Time.

Oh, and the following leading hospitals in New York got it at the same time: New York Presbyterian, St. Vincent's, NYU, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Montefiore, Mount Sinai, North Shore, and Continuum.

Big employers like Goldman Sachs, New York University, Citigroup, and Time plan on using the vaccine on its *employees* who come in large contact with the public.

Chez's blog posts are to writing as reality TV shows are to reality. Don't believe them.

Anytime you read something this outrageous, or something that just really rankles you, pause a moment, take a deep breath, and then type a few keywords into Google and click the "NEWS" link. The truth will be laid bare.

Reality is rarely so outrageous.

Chez said...

Oh, Norm. You always make me smile. Still upset that the neighbor over the back fence won't listen to your wisdom I see.

For the record: Trust me, this site's never been about recording hits.

As for the CDC allowing the states to distribute the vaccine, I seem to remember mentioning the state (and city, in this case Mayor Bloomberg's administration) in the piece you've so kindly chosen to comment on. Just because other large business outlets have also received doses of the vaccine doesn't make it right -- and not making it as available to, say, private doctors and schools in high-risk areas, while ensuring that business will be protected, seems slightly backward to me. I target Goldman Sachs because they along with the other titans of Wall Street have really screwed this country over and, yes, it unnerves me to see them coddled to the point where they're actually getting a swine flu vaccine that others in high-risk areas -- including my daughter -- really need and are having trouble getting.

You can defend Goldman all you'd like -- by this time, after all we've seen from this company and those like it, I'm not sure they're owed much sympathy or understanding.

You come into this debate with the same biases you condemn me for supposedly having; the only difference is that they happen to be opposite the ones you ascribe to me. You'll always defend the right-wing mindset because you believe it to always be, no pun intended, right.

It's easy these days to "Google NEWS" and find articles to bolster your arguments -- as long as you know where to look -- but it doesn't necessarily make your argument hold up in the context of the big picture.

In the end, you and I going at each other here will be nothing but dumb-ass partisan hackery, because it definitely is true that in this case -- as in so many other debates we've had on Facebook -- we approach things from an entirely different perspective when it comes to what's moral behavior and what isn't.

No offense, pal, but what I'm not gonna do is play out those Facebook arguments -- the endless back and forth and back and forth ad nauseam so that you can hear yourself talk -- here. If other people want to futilely argue with you (and I don't say "futilely" because, as you'll claim, your facts are irrefutable), then cool. I just don't have the time required to keep you entertained with endless debate.

Norm said...

Ordinarily bloggers appreciate comments -- especially from opposing vantages -- as they fuel the debate and thereby drive up followership.

I understand you probably haven't the time to debate me, as you are occupied with other writing pursuits.

And as far as hearing myself talk, well, the same could be said about a blog...

Chez said...

I very much appreciate opposing viewpoints, Norm. I really do mean that. I just don't want this to get into another endless back and forth, because unfortunately -- yeah, that I don't have time for.

And yes, the entire act of writing means you don't mind being heard, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

i agree. this sucks. but as Norm pointed out, the government left this up to the states to disperse. if Obama and crew wanted your precious daughter to have the vaccine over the wealthy workers of GS, they could have done so. HE could have done so. Obama has signed more executive orders in his first year of presidency than any other president, ever. if he wanted babies to have it, he could have that done.

Chez said...

And I blame the government as much as anyone else in this case.

Deacon Blue said...


Big employers like Goldman Sachs, New York University, Citigroup, and Time plan on using the vaccine on its *employees* who come in large contact with the public.

Yeah, because it's not like the vastly greater number of fast-food workers, schoolteachers, retail store worker, etc. come in contact with the public, right?

More to the point, let's give the vaccine to the adult first...people who should have the brainpower and resolve to wash their damn hands and do what they can not to touch potentially snot-infected surfaces and shit.

You know, instead of focusing on the kids (and perhaps healthcare workers) exclusively when supplies are scant. You know, the little people who are in daily contact with parents who contact the public, and other kids who have parents who contact the public...and who don't have the experience and knowledge to reduce their chances of infection.

Anonymous said...

It is the government(s) that do this - and those governments are controlled by who? Who? The distribution of this flu vaccine through-what did Norm say, "big employers"-makes almost NO sense from a public health perspective. Virtually zero sense.

The morality - make that amorality - of this is long with us. It reminds me of the Mississippi River flood of 1927 when they decided to blow the levies protecting the poor neighborhoods in NOLA so that they flooded and affluent homes and businesses were spared.

One more thing-something new. You often rail against the paranoia of the right, but you get right up next to it in this post. The politician class in this country and Congress that is bought and paid for by both American and foreign plutarchs and special interests is . . . oh, I dunno . . . out to get us?????