American News – A Bumpy Ride

I’m getting a seat belt fitted to our sofa. It’s either that or stop watching American news altogether. No matter how much I try to compose myself for the 5.30 CBS bulletin, it’s guaranteed some headline will floor me.

Usually, its the ‘medical’ segment, and tonight was no exception.

“An influential doctors group is recommending that some children as young as 8 be given cholesterol-fighting drugs to ward off future heart problems…….” says CBS News tonight.[1]

Going one step further, they are advocating screening cholesterol levels from the age of two, with a view to dispensing statins and other cholesterol drugs to children way younger even than eight.

Far be it from me to criticize such an august group as the American Academy of Pediatrics, but one wonders how long before they recommend a program of intravenous drug infusions for pregnant mothers, arguing their babies will then be fully protected against disease, pre-natally.

According to CBS, Dr. Stephen Daniels of the AAP stated that recent research shows cholesterol fighting drugs are ‘generally safe for children’.

Not all doctors are in agreement.

Still, as I mentioned previously, the American Academy of Pediatrics are an august body, no doubt free of any drug company or corporate involvement.

Well, except, that is for:

Aventis; AstroZeneca; Merck; MedImmune, Inc;McNeil Healthcare;Pediatrics Insurance Consultants, Inc; Dermik (a subsidiary of Aventis)

oh, and I just love this one – McDonalds!

These are the “President’s Circle” of donors to the AAP’s “Friends of Children Fund”, who have donated more than $25,000 apiece. There are a whole host of other industry corporates somewhat more stingy of their generosity.[2]

Of course, I’m not suggesting AAP members are deliberately paid to push drugs on unsuspecting kiddies, but with this sort of involvement by certain, reputedly unscrupulous corporates, could any professional body remain totally independent in reaching its conclusions?

I’ll leave the reader to decide.

With a double-whammy from CBS tonight we learned that Merck’s wonder-vaccine, Guardisil, that protects against the virus responsible for much cervical cancer, may not be quite so miraculous after all. While Merck are vigorously contesting claims the vaccine has caused deaths and paralysis among young girls given the drug, the anecdotal evidence is rapidly mounting.[3][4][5]

All-in-all just another load of suspicion that the corporates in general, and the drug companies in particular, are not necessarily the benevolent institutions they spend millions trying to convince us they are.

But, then, we knew that already, didn’t we? So why do they bother?

Finally, a report tonight that Barack Obama’s plane was forced to make an unscheduled stop today due to ‘controllability problems’ with the plane’s pitch controls.[6]

Asked if he was worried, Obama responded:

“No. Anytime a pilot says something’s not working the way it’s supposed to, then you make sure you tighten your seat belt……”

And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing tomorrow night, on our sofa, prior to watching the 5.30 CBS News bulletin.

[1] “Cholesterol Drugs For Kids Recommended” CBS News, July 7th 2008

[2] “AAP Friends of Children Fund – Corporate members” May 2008

[3] “HPV Vaccine Linked To Teen’s Paralysis?”CBS News, July 7th 2008

[4] “8 More Deaths Caused by Gardasil…..” Natural, October 19th 2007

[5] “FEDS’ WARNING SHOT” New York Post, July 6th 2008

[6] “Obama’s Plane Makes Unscheduled Landing” CBS News, July 7th 2008

Filed under:

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Have you ever wanted to be one of the stinking rich? While the immediate response of many to that question would be, “Ooh, yes, please,” taking a moment to consider the implications might well have some changing their minds. After all, it’s not all champagne suppers and high class prostitutes – though they’re probably two of the benefits – and it could mean having to hobnob with the likes of George W Bush and the Cheney’s.

Yes, I thought that might cause you to reconsider.

The truth is that most of us aren’t obsessed with riches at all, it’s just that we don’t want to be poor. It isn’t any fun when your income only provides food sufficient to last halfway to the next pay check. Having once lived on stale oatmeal for three full days, many years ago, I wouldn’t be happy to repeat the experience, yet I’m acutely aware that many in the world today live their whole lives in far greater deprivation.

So while the dream of big mansions, Lear jets, and a harem of beauties may initially appeal, for me the reality would rapidly transform into one almighty guilt complex.

Frankly, I don’t believe this singles me out from the rest of humanity – except, that is, from 103,320 of us.

If you’re talking reasons to impeach George W Bush, then the figure 103,320 is not all that great; nor, for that matter, the justifications for flicking the ‘Off’ switch of Dick Cheney’s pacemaker, but when it comes to the accumulation of vast amounts of cash, and those amongst whom it is distributed, 103,320 is actually just a smidgen’s more than 0.0015 percent of us. Yet in a recent World Wealth Report from Merrill Lynch, 103,320 is the exact number of human beings on this planet who hold most of the money.[1] To be exact, those who each have in excess of $30 million dollars.

Unfortunately, the report fails to stipulate just how much in excess each of these individuals has, but apparently $30 million is sufficient these days to buy you “super rich-ness”, and the number in that category is rising year on year. In fact, the “super rich” class increased by nearly nine percent in 2008.

Dollar millionaires are also on the rise, though as a million dollars now only equals 504,680 British pounds, or 637,598 euros, being a dollar millionaire doesn’t necessarily place one in the ‘super-brat bracket’ these days.

Merrill Lynch suggests that by 2012 the “……global wealth of high net worth individuals will grow to $59.1tn”.

That’s 59 ‘trillion’, or if you prefer, 59 thousand thousand thousand thousand dollars, divided amongst 10.2 million of us, with the lion’s share going to less than 120,000 individuals.

There were approximately 6,708,083,942 of us on this planet on July 5th 2008.[2] The idea of so much owned by so few seems somewhat unfair. Still, as we all know well, statistics can be manipulated to mean virtually anything.

One fact we can glean from these figures, though, is that there are 103,320 people on this planet who probably never had to eat stale oatmeal for three days, while waiting for the next paycheck.

[1] “Millionaires defy the credit crunch as rich get richer” Guardian, June 24th 2008

[2] “World population” Wikipedia

Filed under:

Slaves To The Corporates

Consider the case of 84-year-old, British war veteran, Walter Bargate, who attempted suicide by swallowing a hundred sleeping pills and pain killers, after spending three winter days and nights in the freezing cold after a power company broke into his house and disconnected his supply.[1]

It turned out the power company had been grossly overcharging him for years, but when Walter tried to contact their customer service he was kept on hold for three hours, until he eventually gave up.

Much was written and spoken in 2007 (the bi-centenary of slavery abolition), celebrating its abolition and bemoaning the part played by various nations in its evil perpetration. Yes, the subject is slavery, and all of us are happy it is is a thing of the past, at least in western civilizations.

But, is it?

Certainly, the simple process of buying or acquiring a human being as property, to be used and misused at whim, is no longer acceptable, at least on the surface of any modern, sophisticated, society. As Agnes Repplier so aptly put it, to be civilized is: “to have some quality of consideration for all who cross our path.” Yet, two hundred and one years after the abolition of slavery in the US and UK, a new, pernicious, form of slavery is spreading relentlessly throughout the modern world.

Walter Bargate survived. His is a sad story, but what, you may ask, has it to do with modern day slavery?

Let’s first examine the definition of a “slave”.

According to Webster’s it’s:

“a person held in servitude as the chattel of another” or “one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence”

Just to be absolutely clear, let’s define “servitude”:

“a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one’s course of action or way of life”

With those definitions in mind, let us consider the case of Walter Bargate.

The power company at the center of this story was E.ON. Originally a German company, E.ON is now multinational with offices throughout Europe and the United States.[2] There’s nothing special about E.ON, it’s just another vast multinational corporation. Yet, it’s exactly because of that description that E.ON has become the villain, the slavemaster, in the story of Walter Bargate.

Once upon a time we lived in a world of competition. Numerous small businesses vied for our custom. Customer service was the highest topic on the agenda of every board meeting. That old adage, “The customer’s always right”, rang true throughout the business world.

Then, in stepped the evil witch, “Big Business”, crushing all the little businesses. Suddenly, the customer had nowhere to go. “Big Business” controlled the retail outlets, energy suppliers, healthcare (in the case of America) and every other consumer-orientated business on the planet.

It didn’t stop there, however. “Big Business” is a parasite that preys on itself. Gradually, “Big Business” metamorphosed into “the Corporates”, as monsters slew each other, gobbled up the competition, until just one gi-normous entity survived in any field of business.

Suddenly, consumers had no choice. They only had one supplier to choose from. If they weren’t satisfied, they couldn’t take their custom elsewhere, because there was nowhere else to go.

Slowly it dawned on “the Corporates” that customer service was no longer vital to their business. If the punter had no choice, he also had no control. The customer was at the mercy of the supplier, both for services and goods. This opened up immense opportunities for corporate profit. No longer was the consumer in charge of quality, variety, or pricing. The customer had to take what was on offer, regardless of those three criteria.

Suddenly, the people had lost control. No longer could a consumer say, “I’m not satisfied with your service, I’m taking my custom elsewhere.” “Elsewhere” no longer existed. The people had become the slaves of “the Corporates”.

Corporate bosses soon realized this didn’t only apply to the customer, but to corporate employees. If a power company employee felt unfairly treated, he couldn’t move to another power company, for there wasn’t one. His union effectively lost its bargaining rights.

The corporate bosses held total control.

The advent of computer technology allowed “the Corporates” to dispense with large numbers of their workforce. ‘Customer service’ became an automated voice offering options that steered the customer away from human contact. The obstinate consumer, demanding a live voice, soon found the hours of brain-deadening, piped music, interspersed with recorded automatons informing, “Your custom is important to us. Please hold. Our representative will be with you shortly. You are only number 1,252 in the queue”, just too much to bear and hung up in frustration and disgust.

The consumer today finds himself totally subservient to the dominating influence of “the Corporates”. He lacks the liberty to determine his course of action or way of life.

He is a slave, in the true meaning of the word.

When Walter Bargate discovered his power bills were way too high, he tried to contact the corporate multinational, “E.ON”, and solve the problem. E.ON’s sophisticated computer-controlled, automated service effectively prevented him from doing that. It didn’t matter that E.ON had overcharged him by $13,000. The Corporate is always right, and if it isn’t, your right of redress is severely limited by an inability to contact anyone who can rectify the mistake.

The local business on the High Street, which relied on satisfying its customers, has become the multi-national in Texas, or Dusseldorf, or Nor’ Nor’ West Bohemia, that doesn’t give a shit about you, or any of its customers, because you have nowhere else to go. You have no control. You are subservient to a dominating influence. You lack the liberty to determine your course of action or your way of life.

And if you still believe you do, then hold fire, because it won’t be long before you change your mind.

Just like the slavemasters of old, “the Corporates” are out to ensure that what they decide is right for them, is exactly what you’ll get.

[1] “War veteran, 84, in suicide bid……” Daily Mail, July 4th, 2008

[2] ‘E.ON’ Website

Filed under: