March 14, 2006

This and that...

Still working 24/7 on my latest video project, but a quick glance at the news shows me nothing much has changed - at least, not for the better. Iraq and Afghanistan are, well, Iraq and Afghanistan. Women's reproductive rights are under nationwide assault, pharmaceutical corporations wield the power of life and death with arbitrary cruelty, environmental science continues to be summarily dismissed as tree-hugging nonsense.

And the Borg Collective once known as the Grand Old Party, fresh from its ballyhooed "rebellion" over the ports deal, has once again solidified in defense of the President's inherent right to lie, cheat, steal, and otherwise break the law as he and his enablers see fit.

So until I have the time to figure out a new way to point out the same old calumny of our apparently untouchable, unindictable, unaccountable Republican Ayatollahs, read these good pieces from around the web:
Friend Ken Grandlund of Common Sense has decided to run for Congress. If we had more individuals of Ken's ilk in government, this might not be such a scary place to live after all. Please visit his campaign site, and do what you can to support one of the true good guys.

Lynne at Bending the Third Rail comments on a British soldier who "has refused to fight in Iraq and has left the Army over the 'illegal' tactics of United States troops." Makes you proud to be an American, right?

The Nation's John Nichols turns his attention to Russ Feingold's motion in the Senate to censure the President. So should we all - for heaven's sake, America, contact your Senators right now and ask them to state publicly whether or not the White House operates above the law!

Anthony Ioven at UpdateAmerica/604 looks at how the trickle-down effect of Mr. Bush's "Culture of Ignoring Any 'Inconvenient' Law Because We're At War, Dammit" is already permeating the legal system in one of its highest profile trials.

And Jane Hamsher of firedoglake unleashes these three salvos at the truly insufferable Joe Lieberman. Good God - to think he would've been Vice President if they'd counted those votes correctly in 2000...

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March 12, 2006

Survival of the richest

The next time one of your Conservative friends extols the trickle-down virtues of unchecked corporate power, expresses his admiration for Republican Congressional attitudes and policies toward national health and Big Pharma, or fetes the devotion of his Party to "a culture of life," whip out this little anecdote from today's New York Times:
On Feb. 3, Joyce Elkins filled a prescription for a two-week supply of nitrogen mustard, a decades-old cancer drug used to treat a rare form of lymphoma. The cost was $77.50.

On Feb. 17, Ms. Elkins, a 64-year-old retiree who lives in Georgetown, Tex., returned to her pharmacy for a refill. This time, following a huge increase in the wholesale price of the drug, the cost was $548.01.

Ms. Elkins's insurance does not cover nitrogen mustard, which she must take for at least the next six months at a cost that will now total nearly $7,000. She and her husband, who works for the Texas Department of Transportation, are paying for the medicine by spending less on utilities and food, she said.
I won't rattle on about the obvious moral of this tale. I've already sounded alarms about this pricing trend and the rationale behind it, on the very day, coincidentally, that Mr. and Mrs. Elkins were making their "Sophie's Choice" between life-sustaining medicine - and eating with the lights on. Writing about another cancer drug which had suddenly, and arbitrarily, been priced out of the reach of a majority of Americans, I worried that...
...if this "What's it worth?" philosophy does trickle down, unopposed and unchecked, into all areas of pharmaceutical products and medicinal treatments, the poor and middle class will face an increasingly bleak future as more and more medical advancements become available solely to the rich.

We should all be profoundly disturbed by Genentech's defiant stance, and insist on a critical pronouncement of principle from our government. Perhaps this is the pivotal time at which we must decide, as a nation, whether health itself will become a commodity, controlled by corporate interests and sold to the highest bidder, or if it will be the right of all people who are citizens of the wealthiest country on the planet.
Read the full piece, which, unfortunately, is still relevant today. And be sure to check out a terrific analysis by Star A. Decise of The Enigmatic Paradox, warning about a seismic shift in corporate attitudes toward "how we ration health care, and how we value life." Ms. Star was way ahead of the curve on this issue, writing in mid-February:
[S]uch a revolutionary change in the country's fundamental approach to the very notion of equality and fair treatment shouldn't be slipped into the fabric of American life without careful scrutiny and public debate. It's a dilemma that confronts us all and will only become more pressing as scientists discover new life-sustaining drugs and treatment and invent ever more expensive technologies.
So here we are, for the second time inside of a month, confronting news that apparently confirms the beginning of a disturbing trend in medicinal pricing. As the Times notes:
The increase has stunned doctors, who say it starkly illustrates two trends in the pharmaceutical industry: the soaring price of cancer medicines and the tendency for those prices to have little relation to the cost of developing or making the drugs...

[P]eople who analyze drug pricing say they see the Mustargen situation as emblematic of an industry trend of basing drug prices on something other than the underlying costs. After years of defending high prices as necessary to cover the cost of research or production, industry executives increasingly point to the intrinsic value of their medicines as justification for prices.
So remember to be grateful for our Conservative leaders, America. Give thanks for the largesse they've bestowed upon the Pharmaceutical and Insurance Industries. Celebrate that your elected Republican representatives spend $6 billion a month fighting a war in a nation that never threatened the U.S., while turning a blind eye to the very real terror of medicinal price-gouging and the simultaneous waffling of insurers.

And never forget that, under the guidance of this Administration and its followers, "a culture of life" has always been code for "survival of the richest" - and that the select members of that culture are the only ones whose lives our government really cares to protect.

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