Sunday, 9 February 2014

Spin, After a Long Illness...

Maybe I'm old, and my memory embellishes the carefree days of yesteryore, when someone would look you in the eye while fucking you over and actually, y'know, try to lie to you about it.

People used to put thought into their duplicity.  Make some effort at trying to pull the wool over your eyes.  Give a crap about giving you crap.  It was actually a sign of respect for you as an individual, that your feelings mattered somehow - more than that of an inanimate rock or spot of mildew, at least.

But could it be that those days are behind us?  Is it now acceptable to show blatant disdain for notions of fairness and morality, without so much as a shredded veil of euphemism or a thin pretense at weasel-words?  I fear this dark circumstance is upon us, and it's not what I wished for when I wished for the end of spin...

Monday, 27 January 2014

Those Meddling Kids!

This is a tragic tale with all the usual elements required to make it the lead story on the local news - a car crash, injured children, and lawsuits.  But - spoiler alert! - there's a surprise twist waiting for you in a few paragraphs...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Yes, Virginia, it Can Always Get Worse!

(OK I haven't posted in 6 months, what are you, the Post Police?  Just because the blog's been on hiatus,
doesn't mean our societal slide towards cancellation has been put on hold...)
Our regular reader (hi, honey!) will remember how last year, we disparaged certain pharmaceutical companies for their heartless, tone-deaf communication style.  We depicted their marketing guys announcing that they were denying lifesaving treatments for financial reasons while dancing atop a pile of yachts, in point of fact.

Well, it seems almost as though they read Why We're Doomed, and have taken our words to heart.  Their corporate communications have shown a remarkable transformation since then!

Whereas once they barely disguised their tactics of putting profits ahead of their customers' lives, those days are now behind us.  Today they don't bother to disguise them at all.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Don't Just Fight Terrorism Over There...

Terrorism again - will it never end?  Some people are finding new ways to continue the fight.

Back in 2001, we were told that the terrorists "hate our freedom" - so to address this complaint, Congress passed the PATRIOT act, revoking many of them in hopes that this would solve the problem.

Fighting terrorism overseas so that we don't have to fight it here has proven to be extremely expensive, however, and has yet to completely eliminate the threat.  Possibly because terrorism is a noun (rather than a physically real person, place or thing).

More recently, we're looking into ways to fight terror locally - for example, by coming up with new ways for ordinary citizens to be labeled terrorists.

This blog recently explored how people who record video on farms can be counted amongst the enemies of democracy.

Now a Tennessee state official has come up with an even simpler way for us to join the ranks of international doom-bringers - no need to shoot footage, just complain about your water quality.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Director Sherwin Smith revealed this innovative approach at a recent community meeting in Maury County, and someone who I presume is already under investigation by DHS covertly recorded the audio with his or her terror-phone.

In response to reports that children are becoming ill drinking the water in the area, he agreed that water quality is something to be taken seriously while advising caution in making an official report:
"But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there's no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism."
State Representative Sheila Butt organized and was present at the meeting.  She breaks new ground for this blog inasmuch as she's an elected official, yet for a change she's not the hysterical nincompoop who spouted the nonsense inspiring this post.  In fact, she said:
"I think that we need to be very careful with how we use the words 'terrorist' and 'terrorism' - I thought it was out of context, that it did not apply to anything that we were discussing at the meeting."
Wise words, Mrs. Butt.  But with the sequester cutting deeply into funding even for the military, I wonder if you're overlooking a sparkling-clear opportunity to continue fighting the evildoers threatening our way of life without resorting to expensive overseas operations.

Heck, Tennesseans don't even have to travel to worry about drinking the water any more - this saves yet more money in the civilian sector.

Job well done, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation!  You're a part of why we're doomed.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Mr. Solution Wants to Tell Us a Story About Mr. Problem

Recent polls suggest that, like its musical namesake, bacterial anthrax remains unpopular - despite repeatedly showing up in the news over the last decade or so, unlike its musical namesake.  Perhaps they just have a bad publicist.

Our government, keenly aware of this lack of public appeal, naturally places a high value on keeping anthrax and campaign donors voters far apart.

But there's anthrax, and then there's biological weapons.  Anthrax is a naturally occurring germ, and it's not spread by handshakes or sneezing or dirty toilet seats, you generally have to inhale the spores deeply for it to pose a life-threatening risk.

And partly because of this, it's notoriously hard to "weaponize" - to convert a tank of bacteria solution from a lab into a sort of powder which can withstand being fired at a target, and remain infectious after being dispersed into the air, is far from easy.

Your average terrorist is a busy person who, like most of us, is not over-endowed with advanced microbiology degrees.  So they usually opt for simpler ways of making their point, and in this the news media is a reliable and enthusiastic partner (but that's a story for another article).

Regardless, the government has of course spent umpty-billions on security since September 11 roughly autumn of 2001 (if I mention the actual date in print, I have to send Mayor Giuliani $20), and this includes some $334 million forked over by both the Bush and Obama administrations on something called raxibacumab.

If that sounds like a hell of a lot of "Raxi", it's probably worth mentioning that it rings up somewhere north of $5,000 per dose.

Raxi is the first product of a company known as Human Genome Sciences Inc, and the U.S. Government is the only customer for Raxi.

HGS Inc. was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline last year for some $3.6 billion, a pricetag which I hope included a free unicorn pony for all employees and box seats to ragnarok.  I mention this because GlaxoSmithKline has appeared before in this blog for their canny financial sensibilities when it comes to investing in human misery futures.  They clearly see strong growth ahead for HGS!

There are a number of inexpensive and widely available treatments for anthrax, from ordinary antibiotics to vaccines.  But Raxi is an anti-toxin, which means it goes after the actual poison the bacteria pumps into your body, rather than trying to stop the bug itself.

This makes it potentially a vital defense asset against a weapon made with antibiotic-resistant anthrax (yay!) if such a thing existed (whuuut?)

The government has good reason to fear an attack using a drug-resistant anthrax weapon.  Even though experts point out that the mutations required to make the bug resist antibiotics, while straightforward enough to create, also make it much weaker - less lethal, and less stable.

Far too busy to pose for a photo, sorry
Conflict of Interest /ˈkɒnflɪkt əv ˈɪntrəst/
(noun) - see Danzig, Richard
The government has good reason to fear such a weapon because famous biology expert Dr. Richard Danzig has for years told them it's really easy to make!

Oh wait, Richard Danzig isn't a famous biologist, or even a doctor... he's a lawyer.  Also an adviser on biowarfare to the Department of Homeland Security, and a snappy dresser to boot.

You'd think a busy guy like that wouldn't have much time for hobbies, but it turns out he also had a side gig for 10 years as the director of - care to guess? - yes, Human Genome Sciences, Inc.

Of course, he is well aware of the possible appearance of a conflict of interest, here, possibly because he sees posters for it with his face on them daily.  Which is why the ivy-league-educated lawyer is very careful about what he says.  As he points out,
"If I have occasion to comment on this, it ought to be in general, as a policy matter, not as a particular procurement."
In other words, scare the wits out of the government all you like about the risks of being thrown into a briar patch, but if you mention that you also own the only anti-briar technology in the country, that would be wrong.  Just let them Google that up for themselves.

The respected scientist lawyer has stated repeatedly that this is a serious risk.  In fact, he does so using words which skim so exquisitely close to the truth, without being in any way relevant, that it's actually kind of... mesmerizing:
"Development of an antibiotic-resistant strain... is quite easy," Mr. Danzig says. "Even at the high school level, biology students understand that an antibiotic-resistant strain can be developed."
Bow your heads, gentle reader, for once again we're in the presence of weapons-grade blarney.

True enough, any idiot a student can grasp how growing a bug in a weak solution of antibiotics can encourage the development of a strain which tends to resist that antibiotic.

But what Danzig says is far more profitable provocative, as it implies (without explicitly saying) that this same student can master the advanced genetics and biochemical wizardry required to turn that into a weapon - something which grown-up people with the resources of whole nations behind them have failed to do for decades!

Which brings us to another eloquent quote from someone close to the matter - specifically Philip Russell, a biodefense official in the Bush administration and former Army major general.  Also, an actual doctor.  When informed of Danzig's dayjob, he responded:
"Holy smoke, that was a horrible conflict of interest"...
Horrible maybe, but it was also a 7-figure bribe payday Danzig skimmed earned while prevaricating making us all safer - or would you rather we face terrorism without any antitoxin?  Or at least, as Danzig emphasizes,
"the president and his staff, members of Congress, key members of the military" could benefit.
Credit where it's due: here is a man who knows bullshit his target market.

And lest you fear that Glaxo's multibillion-dollar investment may prove unwise, Raxi's shelf life is only about 3 years - so we're due for another dose pretty soon... better drop your pants and bend over wipe down that checkbook!

Anyone for some doom?  Leave a comment below (no suspicious envelopes though, please!)