30 December 2009

Fascism, thy Name is China

The NYTimes has been running a series of articles (at least 2, counting today) about China's "invasion" of Afghanistan. Plundering its resources, while the USofA does the wet work. Here is today's piece. I was moved to write by the last one a few weeks ago, and I am so moved this time.

The money quote:

But the Aynak investment underscores how China's leaders, flush with money and in control of both the government and major industries, meld strategy, business and statecraft into a seamless whole.

This piece is about a copper mine; I believe the earlier one made mention of it. For comparison, here is Mussolini's definition of fascism. It is the canonical definition, since Mussolini invented both the term and structure.

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.
-- "The Doctrine of Fascism", 1932, Mussolini

The USofA is a cat's paw of blind stupidity, led on by our own tepid brand of fascism: the Right Wingnuts of the Republican party. That our President remains in thrall to them, unwilling as both Roosevelts were, to call a spade a spade and take out the evil doers. I fear we are headed to a state of perpetual decline of the common American, all to the betterment of Goldman Sachs and the like.

The problem, if one has a jaundiced view, is that democracy and the commonweal are not served by a process which moves income and wealth from the many to the few. We've seen in the years of Reagan and his playmates, that each year gets a little bit worse. Not enough any one year (well, except this, but I digress) to get the morons to take up arms. Just a slow, Chinese water torture of creeping poverty.

25 December 2009

Happy Christmas????????

Here I sit on Christmas Day, wondering what to say. In spontaneously invented rhyming couplets. Perhaps not.

Is there reason for good cheer, I ask myself? Not so much, but some. There is a health care bill passed by both Houses. But Nelson, et al, being right wing Fascists in drag, successfully extracted their pound of silver. Some, and I truly hope they are correct, point out that Social Security was a half baked loaf in 1935, and we in 2009/2010 shouldn't be surprised. I remain skeptical. The Right Wingnuts have shown that they are better able to propagandize than the Left Wing Patriots. Reagan started it all with his lie, "I paid for this microphone". He hadn't, and was never pilloried for lying.

Real unemployment is in the neighborhood of 17%. That this fact is being mentioned in common media is a Good Thing. The administration has been remiss in not keeping the blame squarely on the Right Wing, who controlled 2/3 or 3/3 of federal government for all the years since Reagan, excepting Poppy Bush and 2 years of Clinton. That's 22 out of 28. Always keep that in mind. Keep in mind too, that it was those Right Wingnut stalwarts, Gramm-Leach-Bliley who finally dismantled Glass-Steagall.

What to be Merry about? Not on a personal level, of course, since each of us has at least one aspect of life which has improved during 2009 (no matter how teensy weensy). Rather, where is the Ship of State, this Experiment in Democracy (which is itself adept propaganda from the Right Wingnuts; the USofA is a Republic since the Right Wingnuts didn't want Democracy), this Beacon of Hope for the rest of the world (which seems not so impressed any longer) going? Are we headed to a place where most Americans have, and can expect to continue to have, a better life next year?

Or are we headed, as we have since Reagan, to a place where most Americans are just a little more destitute next year?

18 December 2009

Lord of the Flies

UPDATED, with a bit of news out of South Dakota. I love it when I predict the future.

In some measure, the greatest contemporary writing is William Golding's "Lord of the Flies". For those who weren't required to read it in high school, it tells the tale of some juvenile boys stranded on an island; in particular, their descent into Darwinism. I haven't re-read the book in decades, but I will be in the next few weeks. I recalled the book because I've been outside the country just twice: to Haiti in the 1980's and Bermuda two years ago.

Islands, especially isolated ones as Bermuda, offer up impromptu and mostly unwanted, human experiments. Petri dishes of corporeal conflicts for those outside to monitor for their own destinies. Or perhaps, object lessons in how not to devise a social contract. Or perhaps not; lessons ignored because those outside either are certain that they are the winners, or that what happens in the petri dish won't happen where they live. Fools.

Since my return from Bermuda, I've been a regular reader of the Royal Gazette, keeping an attachment which was instantaneous. The same didn't happen with Haiti, although the internet didn't exist (at least in a civilian context) in those years. The disturbing convergence of fiction and reality, for an unbridled liberal, can be read in its pages for the last few weeks; certainly today.

While Haiti has been an unapologetic apartheid society for centuries (did you know that Haiti supplied baseballs and gloves for decades?), Bermuda is less obviously so; in order to preserve its tourist industry. Haiti hasn't had one for decades, and it was marginal even in 1980's when I was there. Bermuda tries to put on a happy face, but the edges are visibly fraying.

Bermuda, among other things, ties its currency directly to the US dollar. It views itself as an extension of the Carolinas. In that spirit, it is run for the betterment of a handful of white folk, mostly not even of Bermuda. Other than tourists, most of the economic activity is insurance. Much like South Dakota re-wrote its credit card laws to attract a handful of jobs, Bermuda has done so for insurance. Most of the jobs are not even held by Bermudians, ironic, yes? Read the Gazette daily for a few weeks, and you will see where we are headed.

I suspect that, no matter how much more the Bermuda government bends over for these insurance companies, they will flee the "social unrest", oblivious and uncaring of the fact that their exploitation of the population is the direct cause of the unrest. It is an evil way to run a society.

14 December 2009

Capitalist Scumbags, One and All

Capitalists, in addition to being rather stupid and hypocritical (Gummint can't do anything right; but wait a minute, I really deserve a contract to do the function at twice what it would cost the Gummint to do itself), they are just liars. An acquaintance is managing one of those stimulus programs for a state.

The contractors (private sector capitalists, all) don't want to do any real work, so they sub-contract. Said sub-contractors are continually asking this manager a particular question: "do my workers have to have a real Social Security Number?". These scumbags have no intention of "creating jobs" for 'Muricans; just lining their pockets with taxpayer cash. They ought to be strung up by their gonags, sliced with a dull hatchet, then covered with fire ants.

09 December 2009

Little Orphan Druggy

Herewith the tale of Little Orphan Druggy. Last Saturday, the NYT ran an article about a new cancer drug, Folotyn, and once again committed the sin of omission. I sent along the following, but they demurred, once again, so I'm sharing it with you Dear Reader.

Once again, your reporter and his editors have committed the lie of omission. In this case, it is the status of Orphan Drug, which applies to Fotolyn and was approved by FDA. The Orphan Drug Act was passed by Congress (1983), with the intention of encouraging drug companies to support small population diseases. The Big Pharma largely have ignored these diseases, thus small bioPharma/bioTechs have taken up the risk. As the story says, Allos had not had an approved drug before Folotyn. There is a reason for that: finding new compounds which are therapeutic is expensive, and without the revenue from existing compounds means funding comes from debt and sequential public offerings. Recouping that investment from a small population inevitably leads to high unit cost. If this angers you, have Congress repeal the Orphan Drug Law. Simple as that.

This does raise a serious issue, which the Times chose to ignore, as it often does. The Orphan Drug Act was created for the express purpose to encourage research and development into compounds for diseases not in the mainstream. There have been a number of side effects. Most significantly, small drug development companies have been created, with the apparent motivation of doing orphan drugs. Whether this is a Good Thing, I don't know. I've not the time nor a paid researcher to know for certain that X% of orphan drugs are made by one trick pony companies. Some are, some aren't. It does seem to me that there are lots of small drug companies doing narrow scope cancer drugs. There are also a few looking to develop widely applicable platforms, but starting with orphan diseases as a way to get some compound into commercial status using the base technology.

It also appears that Big Pharma is both buying up these companies, and slurping at the Orphan Drug trough.

But is it a Good Thing to offer companies, essentially, monopoly power over a compound for an extended period of time? Reading the article (disclosure: I had Allos stock for a time months ago), $30,000/treatment is astounding. Allos hasn't had an approved drug until now. They've been around for years, with management getting nice salaries and bonuses. It could be that the scientists are better than average paid, but who knows? As one of the panel, who voted for approval, said, Folotyn is just a single in the War on Cancer. What has not been analyzed, and should be in any serious discussion, is the proportion of funds used for drug development versus salary and perks to managers in orphan drugs versus non-orphans. This overlaps, to some degree, with the proportions between Big Pharma and small pharma. I know of certain small pharma companies that are zombies; continuing to slurp of funds (generally from "new investors", not so much government) while producing nothing approved for decades. There exists the public policy question of whether the Orphan Drug Act, used by either Big or small Pharma, has proven worth the costs, both public and private. A decent master's thesis or even doctoral dissertation is for the doing.