Month: May 2013

Accountability in Free Trade, What a Concept

Following a spate of horrific fatal disasters at Bangladeshi textile industry pressure is increasing end special trade status between that nation and the US:

After several deadly factory disasters in Bangladesh — including the collapse of an eight-story garment factory last month that left at least 1,127 people dead — labor advocates are stepping up pressure on the Obama administration, calling for it to convey its disapproval of working conditions in the country by revoking its special trade status.

But federal officials remain conflicted over the American government’s responsibility for safer labor conditions overseas, and in meetings in recent weeks they disagreed over what combination of carrots and sticks would work best to achieve this goal.

Some officials, particularly in the State Department, say that if trade status is revoked, Washington will lose its leverage to pressure Bangladesh to improve building codes and labor rights. Labor advocates and officials from the Labor Department counter, however, that this leverage is lost anyway if the administration is never willing to use it.

“By failing to take serious action before now even in the face of phenomenal, unprecedented death of workers, U.S. trade officials have already sent the wrong message to Bangladesh,” said Brian Campbell, policy and legal programs director of the International Labor Rights Forum, a workers advocacy group. “It’s time to send a strong signal.”

Mr. Campbell is right.

If you are not willing to have consequences to an employment regime that is corrupt and patently anti-worker (the factory owner has to approve before employees can join a union) because you fear losing leverage, then you never had any leverage to begin with.

If the US revokes the trade status, it is likely that the EU will as well, so this is a big deal, and a well deserved response.

This is not just poor pay and working conditions in Bangladesh, it is also that the state security apparatus murder labor organizers:

Last April, Aminul Islam, a prominent worker advocate, was found dead, his body bearing signs of torture. Reporters in Bangladesh said there was evidence that the government’s security forces might have been tied to the death. No one has yet been arrested. According to American diplomats and labor officials, there has been little progress in the investigation.

It’s not going to happen now, because the Obama administration is populated by “free market mousketeers”, who believe that lowered trade barriers created improved working conditions and worker protections (they don’t Bangladesh, QED), make everyone richer, and keep your daughter from dating that guy with the piercings and tattoos.

It’s Jobless Thursday!!

And initial jobless claims rose by 10,000 to 354,000, with the 4-week moving average rising 6,750 to 347,250, continuing claims rising by 63,000 to 2.99 million.

The number of emergency claims fell by 50,000 to 1.73 million, but much of that could be claim exhaustion.

So the numbers are a bit worse than they were last week, but still not too bad.

An unalloyed good number however is that pending sales of existing homes sales hit a three-year high, though I am worried that the purchase of homes as rental properties might be the latest bubble.

Speaking of Fails………

How about that funny looking guy with the big ears?

You know, the one who ran against John McCain in 2008?

Well, there are reports that that he will nominate Bush Administration apparatchik James Comey as the next FBI director:

President Obama plans to nominate James B. Comey, a former senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, to replace Robert S. Mueller III as FBI director, according to two people with knowledge of the selection process.

Comey, 52, was at the center of some of the most bruising debates over counterterrorism during the Bush administration and established a reputation as a fierce defender of the law and the integrity of the Justice Department regardless of the political pressures of the moment.

The expected nomination of Comey, a Republican, was seen in some quarters as a bipartisan move by a president besieged by Republicans in Congress. But Chuck Hagel’s prior service as a Republican senator from Nebraska did not spare him from a bruising nomination battle for secretary of defense.

(emphasis mine)

Yes, more of the PPUS (Post Partisan Unity Schtick).  It does not work, and neither does starting the negotiation process with capitulation does a disservice to the basic morals on that Obama purports to believe it.

Notwithstanding the fact that he opposed one the most egregious excesses of the Cheney Bush administration, he is a bad guy, who has next to no interest in supporting civil rights, as the ACLU has observed:

CONTACT: 212-549-2666,

WASHINGTON – Below is a statement from Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, on President Obama’s reported plan to nominate James B. Comey as the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“While the ACLU does not take official positions on nominations to appointed office, there are many questions regarding Comey’s record that deserve careful scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee. As the second-highest ranked Justice Department official under John Ashcroft, Comey approved some of the worst abuses committed by the Bush administration. Specifically, the publicly available evidence indicates Comey signed off on enhanced interrogation techniques that constitute torture, including waterboarding. He also oversaw the indefinite detention without charge or trial of an American citizen picked up in the United States and then held for years in a military brig. Although Comey, despite tremendous pressure from the Bush White House, deserves credit for courageously stopping the reauthorization of a secret National Security Agency program, he reportedly approved programs that struck at the very core of who we all are as Americans.

“It’s critical that the Senate ensures that the men and women of the FBI know that they have a leader who will demand adherence to the rule of law and will hold those accountable who do not, wherever he or she may find them.”

Seeing the Obama administration’s consistently dismissive attitude towards civil rights (Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever), they may see his role in the some of the worst excesses of the Bush administration, including torture, as a plus.

Epic Fail

John Sidney McCain III goes to Syria. He takes a picture with the noble freedom fighters. One small problem: it turns out that two of the guys are terrorist who kidnapped religious pilgrims :

Everything was going relatively smoothly following John McCain’s surprise visit to hang out with Syrian rebels this week until Lebanon’s Daily Star reported that one of the “brave fighters” pictured on the senator’s Twitter is “a known affiliate of the rebel group responsible for the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims one year ago.” If so, McCain’s office said, that would be “regrettable.”

“According to families of the remaining captives and one of the released men, Anwar Ibrahim, one of the men standing alongside McCain in photographs released by the senator’s office, is Mohammad Nour, the chief spokesman and photographer for the Northern Storm kidnappers,” according to the Daily Star. “Ibrahim and other members of the kidnapped family said they recognized Nour, and another man affiliated with the group, also identified as ‘Abu Ibrahim,’ immediately after seeing the photos.”

So, John McCain thinks that he knows who the good guys are.

Here’s a thought, if you cannot tell who is the good guys are, it’s best not to choose sides.

Good Point

C.P. Chandrasekhar, discussing the so called middle income trap, where developing countries stall out at a slightly improved standard of living.

Why did places like Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan become prosperous, while newer partners to the dance don’t.

Money quote is at the end:

And there are many who argue that growth in Asia stalled not before they liberalized but after they did. This is based in particular on the evidence that dynamism in Asian economies other than China, and to an extent India, faltered after the 1997 crisis. That crisis, we must recall, was related to the financial liberalisation many of these countries were forced to adopt, either as a quid pro quo for continued access to the export markets on which they were excessively dependent, or because waning manufacturing export competitiveness as a result of rising wage costs and appreciating currencies, pushed them into liberalisation of financial policies in the hope of making financial services the new engine of growth. The result was vulnerability to boom-bust cycles of various kinds that led to the synchronised downturn in many countries (with Thailand, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia, among them) in 1997-98.

This should possibly lead to two conclusions. The first is that, beyond a point export-driven growth has a way of running into internally generated constraints. Second, that among the factors that can undermine a country’s growth prospects, even at relatively higher income levels, is excessive liberalisation, especially financial liberalisation. Possibly most countries, whether poor, rich or in some ‘middle income’ range, find their growth has stalled for reasons such as these.

(Emphasis mine)

Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan experienced their growths during the 1960s and 1970s, before we had “liberalization” (deregulation) and expanding inequality.

I tend to come from this from a more sociological perspective than a classical economic one, and I would argue that a liberalized economic policies, and in particular financial liberalization, is analogous to the colonial regimes in the 1800s.

The expanded financial services industries suck the marrow out of, well basically everyone in an orgy of non productive rent sinking, much like the colonial Satraps in the time of Victoria.

Basically, the banksters are f%$#ing the rest of us like a drunk sorority girl.

It shows that Timothy Geithner’s, and Wall Street’s creepy vision of the future:

Geithner hunched his shoulders, pressed his knees together, and lifted his heels up off the ground—an almost childlike expression of glee. “We’re going, like, existential,” he said. He told me he subscribes to the view that the world is on the cusp of a major “financial deepening”: As developing economies in the most populous countries mature, they will demand more and increasingly sophisticated financial services, the same way they demand cars for their growing middle classes and information technology for their corporations. If that’s true, then we should want U.S. banks positioned to compete abroad.

Is a disaster for the rest of us.

The Stoopid!!!! It Burns Us!!!!!

This could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth. Perhaps we should shoot him.*

In response to the collapse of I-5 bridge north of Seattle, Washington State Representative Ed Orcutt,(a Republican, of course) thought that the concerns were overblown, because, “11 of the 12 Sections of the Bridge Are Still Standing“:

In the wake of the I-5 bridge collapse, the progressive activist group Fuse put together an online petition, urging state legislators to “Fix our crumbling roads and bridges!”


Hard to read that as a controversial request, unless, of course, you are state Representative “Angry Ed” Orcutt (R-Kalama), the ranking Republican on the house transportation committee. Via email, Orcutt responds defensively to petitioners, objecting to any effort to “leverage more tax dollars” in response to the Skagit River bridge collapse:

[I]t is clear that the reason for the collapse was due to a collision with the super structure of the bridge — not a lack of structural integrity of the bridge. The bridge would indeed be standing today had the truck’s load NOT rammed the super structure of the bridge. In fact, 11 of the 12 sections of the bridge are still standing.

Dude, it’s not a bridge any more, it is a f%$#ing pier!!!!

Or, to quote yet another movie:

Garry: The generator’s gone.

MacReady: Any way we can we fix it?

Garry: It’s “gone”, MacReady.

*What, you’ve never seen Ruthless People? Great movie.

Full letter after the jump:

From: “Orcutt, Rep. Ed”
Date: May 28, 2013, 12:23:47 PM PDT
Subject: RE: Fix our crumbling roads and bridges!


Many people have misunderstood terminology used in the aftermath of the I-5/Skagit River Bridge collapse.

This bridge is deemed functionally obsolete — not structurally deficient. Functionally obsolete basically means that the width of the lanes do not meet current design widths. In other words, if it were to be built today, it would need to be wider.

Since the incident, I have been on a conference call with the Governor (which included WSDOT and WSP officials); two briefing calls with National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials; and have met with NTSB officials on the deck of the bridge. From NTSB to WSDOT, it is clear that the reason for the collapse was due to a collision with the super structure of the bridge — not a lack of structural integrity of the bridge. The bridge would indeed be standing today had the truck’s load NOT rammed the super structure of the bridge. In fact, 11 of the 12 sections of the bridge are still standing.

It is important to note also, that DOT has specifically stated that if a bridge were deemed unsafe, it would be taken out of service. So, when you approach a bridge and see that it is open, please know that DOT has deemed it safe enough for the traffic using it.

I agree with you that we must maintain our infrastructure to assure it remains safe, but let’s not confuse this incident or try to use it to leverage more tax dollars when the cause of this collapse had nothing to do with the availability of tax dollars.


Representative Ed Orcutt
20th Legislative District

Olympia Office:
408 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504

( 360.786.7990

Narcissistic Twaddle from “Liberal Hawks”

The Washington Post published an article about how the Liberal Hawks are cowed because of their failures in Iraq and Libya:

For interests on both sides of Syria’s civil war, this has been the week to increase the pressure. Hezbollah sent reinforcements to the troops of President Bashar al-Assad, and Russia reiterated its intention to furnish the regime with weapons. At the same time, Republican Sen. John McCain secretly visited rebels and promised to push the Obama administration to arm the retreating forces. The European Union allowed its weapons embargo to lapse as nations such as Britain and France appear increasingly eager to aid the opposition fighters.

But amid the burst in outside engagement, one influential group seems noticeably silent. The liberal hawks, a cast of prominent left-leaning intellectuals, played high-profile roles in advocating for American military intervention on foreign soil — whether for regime change or to prevent humanitarian disasters. They pressured President Bill Clinton to intervene in Bosnia, provided intellectual cover on the left for President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and urged President Obama to engage in Libya. But even as the body count edges toward 100,000 in Syria and reports of apparent chemical-weapons use by Assad, liberal advocates for interceding have been rare, spooked perhaps by the traumatic experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and the clear reluctance of a Democratic president to get mired in the Middle East. Call them Syria’s mourning doves.

“Everybody has their own ghosts to deal with,” said Vali Nasr, a former Obama administration official and leading proponent of intervention in Syrian. “But those people understand that what is going on in Syria cannot go on indefinitely.”

Why the f%$# should we listen to these folks.

  • They were wrong about Iraq.
  • They were wrong about Libya (where Islamist rule, and ethnic cleansing of black Africans is the rule).
  • They have been agitating for a military strike against Iran, which would probably extend the rule of the mullahs by decades, as Saddam’s attack in the 1970s cemented their rule.

And now their feelings are hurt because people don’t take their push for military intervention seriously.

It’s just a no fly zone ……… Only a no fly zone is very clearly an act of war:

Kudos to Josh Rogin for breaking the news that “the White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria.” But wouldn’t it be a more powerful story without the euphemism?

Relying on the term “no-fly-zone” is typical in journalism. But that is a mistake. It obscures the gravity of the news.

Here’s how an alternative version of the story might look: “The White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for bombing multiple targets inside Syria, constantly surveilling Syrian airspace alongside U.S. allies, and shooting down Syrian war planes and helicopters that try to fly around, perhaps for months.”

The term “no-fly-zone” isn’t analytically useless. It’s just that folks using it as shorthand should make sure everyone reading understands that, as Daniel Larison put it right up in a headline, “Imposing a No-Fly-Zone in Syria Requires Starting a New War.” That becomes clearer some paragraphs later in Rogin’s article, when he discussed Senator John McCain’s advocacy for a “no-fly-zone.” “McCain said a realistic plan for a no-fly zone would include hundreds of planes, and would be most effective if it included destroying Syrian airplanes on runways, bombing those runways, and moving U.S. Patriot missile batteries in Turkey close to the border so they could protect airspace inside northern Syria,” he wrote.

(emphasis mine)

I would also note that anyone who thinks that this operation would be limited to air and air defense assets should look at the Libyan intervention, where it turned almost immediately into direct close air support for the rebels.

This has disaster written all over it.

There is a reason that “Liberal Hawks” were described as “Useful Idiots” by Tony Judt.

I Wonder What Happened?

So, I get up this mourning, and discover that Michele Bachmann is not running for re-election.

Seeing as how she literally thinks that she its on a mission from God, I gotta conclude that an indictment its about to get unsealed.

On an electoral level, this might make switching her seat from red to blue more difficult, because the district is pretty Republican, and having a slightly less obviously batsh@# insane candidate might make the swart easier to hold onto for the ‘Phants.

Posted via mobile.

Why Would a Race Baiting Republican Go to the Wall Over Medicaid Expansion?

Yes, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is following through on her threat to veto all legislation until Medicaid expansion is passed:

Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) has a message for her party: expand Medicaid — or else.

The combative GOP governor is sticking by a threat she made to veto all legislation until lawmakers resolve the 2014 state budget and pass Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. On Thursday, Brewer proved that wasn’t just talk, vetoing five bills sent to her desk in quick succession.

“I warned that I would not sign additional measures into law until we see resolution of the two most pressing issues facing us: adoption of a fiscal 2014 state budget and plan for Medicaid,” wrote Brewer in her veto message. “It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat.”

Arizona officials only have five weeks before reaching the constitutional deadline for passing a budget. Last Thursday, six Republican state senators joined a unified Democratic caucus to pass a Medicaid expansion bill — but efforts have been gummed up in the state House since then.

Brewer isn’t letting the issue slide. She has been touring the Grand Canyon State to shore up support for the expansion and put pressure on reticent lawmakers in her own party.

Seriously, I do not know where this is coming from.

This is the politician who continuously repeated false claims about beheaded bodies in the desert, and blamed “Mexicans,” and she is going to the mat for Obamacare?

I really cannot figure out her angle on this. 

From a budget and economic standpoint, it makes sense, it makes the state more attractive to employers, and the Feds cover almost all the costs for the next few years, but budgetary reality is not something that typically drives movement conservatives.

The Only Way that They Could Be More Evil Would be to Buy a White Persian Cat

I was talking to my son, and told him that Monsanto just got more evil. He said that it was not possible, and I told him that Monsanto has hired the mercenary outfit Blackwater to track anti GMO activists.

My son acknowledged his error, and admitted that the agricultural biotechnology could get more evil:

Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the “intel arm” of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince’s companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.


Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto’s security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson “understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name…. Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for.” Black added that Total Intelligence “would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto.” Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater “could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally.” Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto’s “generous protection budget” but would eventually become a line item in the company’s annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto’s Wilson initially said, “I’m not going to discuss it with you.” In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating “there was no such discussion.” He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto “with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites.” Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was “a completely separate entity from Blackwater.”

Seriously, this just buggers the mind.

For their next product, Soylent Green!

Why Stay Out of Syria, Reason Number 1325

It appears that the UN peacekeepers on the Golan will have to pull out if weapons are sent to the rebels:

The future of the long-running UN peacekeeping mission on the strategic Golan Heights between Syria and Israel has been thrown into question as a result of Britain’s decision to defy most of the EU and force the lifting on the two-year arms embargo on Syria.

The Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, and vice-chancellor, Michael Spindelegger, said on Tuesday they would probably pull out more than 300 peacekeepers if Britain helped arm the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

A withdrawal would heighten the growing sense of greater Middle East crisis, creating a vacuum on the strategically vital heights which the Israelis would be tempted to fill quickly.

Vienna stressed there was no need for haste as no weapons supplies were yet flowing. While declaring it had no intention of supplying arms immediately, Britain reserved the right to do so. Britain can start shipping guns and missiles to Syria on Saturday when the embargo lapses. But it has pledged to give negotiations another chance in Geneva next month while reserving the option of arming those in the fractious Syrian opposition it deems “moderate” from August.

And while we are at it, we should note that the EU move has prompted Russia to announce that it will be delivering advanced SAMs to Syria:

Russia said on Tuesday that it would supply one of its most advanced anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian government hours after the EU ended its arms embargo on the country’s rebels, raising the prospect of a rapidly escalating proxy war in the region if peace talks fail in Geneva next month.

Israel quickly issued a thinly veiled warning that it would bomb the Russian S-300s if they were deployed in Syria as such a move would bring the advanced guided missiles within range of civilian and military planes in Israeli air space.

“The shipments haven’t set out yet and I hope they won’t,” Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli defence minister, said. “If they do arrive in Syria, God forbid, we’ll know what to do.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, argued that the delivery of the S-300 system had been previously agreed with the Syrian government in Damascus and would be a “stabilising factor” that could dissuade “some hotheads” from entering the conflict. That appeared to be a reference to the UK and France, who pushed through the lifting of the EU embargo on Monday night and are the only European countries currently considering arming the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Of course, the S-300 is useless against the rebels, but it would be pretty useful to deter NATO from acting against Syria.

BTW, I understand why the Israelis are freaking. Depending on model (the S-300 is a complete air defense system with a variety of interceptors), the range of the missile could be as much as 200 km, which would cover about 2/3 of Israeli air space from Quneitra.

OK, I’m Having Some Transportation Mishaps Today, and So is All of Baltimore

Bad day at the office

I was driving down the road on I-795, and a red pickup truck a few car lengths ahead of me had its driver’s side front wheel come off.

The truck continued down the road, trailing sparks from the break disk on the pavement.

Thankfully, the driver managed to control the truck, and get off onto the right shoulder.

The wheel continued to roll down the road, and careened off the center median Jersey barrier, and wheel bounced across three lanes, and also went off the right shoulder.

Thankfully the wheel did not hit anyone either, though it came within 10 feet of me and another driver.

I then called 911, changed my underwear, and went off to a scheduled appointment with my chiropractor.

As to the rest of Baltimore,  there was a train derailment and explosion in Rosedale:

A freight train smacked into a truck carrying garbage and careened off the tracks in Rosedale Tuesday afternoon, triggering an explosion felt throughout the region and sending up a plume of black smoke visible for miles.

Authorities identified the driver of the truck as John Alban Jr., a retired Baltimore County firefighter who owns a waste collection company near the scene of the crash. The Essex man was listed in serious condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center Tuesday night, a hospital spokeswoman said. No other serious injuries were reported.

Officials shut down surrounding roads for several hours, slowing traffic through the region. The roads were reopened by Tuesday night, and a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration said the morning commute should not be affected.

Michael “Vince” Brown, the operations manager at a business near the crash site, was sitting in his office at about 2 p.m. Tuesday when it began to “rumble and shake.”

“I screamed at my employees, ‘Everyone get in their cars and get out of here now,’” Brown said. “We were on Lake Drive, and I asked if everyone was there, and as soon as I said that, the train blew up. It blew me against my car.”

Authorities have advised people in a two block radius to leave the area because of possible toxic fumes.

How Worship of the Unbridled Market is Taking the United States to 3rd World Nation Status

Premature babies are dieing of starvation because feeding babies is not profitable enough for sufficient stocks to be maintained:

Because of nationwide shortages, Washington hospitals are rationing, hoarding, and bartering critical nutrients premature babies and other patients need to survive. Doctors are reporting conditions normally seen only in developing countries, and there have been deaths. How could this be allowed to happen?


Except for a mind-boggling problem that Atticus’s [A child born 4 months early, and currently in the NICU] hospital—one of the most prominent in the country—has been powerless to solve: Atticus isn’t receiving some of the critical nutrients he needs to survive.

Doctors and pharmacists say that because of nationwide shortages caused by a combination of factors—manufacturing problems, a market with few incentives for companies to produce low-profit drugs, and the government’s delayed and inadequate action—thousands of patients are being malnourished.


Experts call the nutrient shortage a public-health crisis and a national emergency—and are astounded that the government and manufacturers have let the situation become so dire.

“Children are dying,” says Steve Plogsted, a clinical pharmacist who chairs the drug-shortage task force of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN). “They’re not getting any calcium or any zinc. Or they’re not getting any phosphorous, and that can lead to heart standstill. I know of a neonate who had seven days without phosphorous, and her little heart stopped.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career, and I’ve been a pharmacist for 40-some years,” says Michael Cohen, president of the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) and a 2005 MacArthur Foundation fellow. “This should never be allowed to happen.”

There are 300 drug, vitamin, and trace-element shortages in the US, the highest number ever recorded by the University of Utah Drug Information Service, which began tracking national shortages in 2001. Approximately 80 percent of these are generic injectables, or drugs given intravenously.


The nutrients in shortage aren’t rare. “We’re talking about zinc, phosphorous, calcium—trace elements,” says CHA president Mark Wietecha. “These aren’t the latest genetically modified drugs or something coming out of modern high-tech environments. These have been around for decades.”


Some hospitals have resorted to bartering with one another to secure even a small supply of nutrients, and many are rationing.

At least one NICU in the District is administering some trace elements only three days a week instead of seven. At Atticus’s hospital, no patients heavier than 2½ kilograms (5½ pounds), including NICU babies, are getting intravenous phosphorous. “You could have a brand-new, full-term baby and they don’t qualify,” a staff member says. “There are really sick babies and one-, two-, three-year-olds that don’t get anything at all because we’re rationing it for our tiniest preemies.”


When Miguel Sáenz de Pipaón, a neonatologist at a prominent hospital in Madrid, arrived in the US for a research visit, he was stunned by the nutrition shortages.

“It’s crazy,” he says. “That doesn’t happen in Europe.” He noted that the US relies on a 25-year-old lipid emulsion, which is in shortage, while European hospitals use a newer version that’s readily available. Rather than import the newer emulsion, the US has left many patients without any lipids at all.

The only shortage Sáenz de Pipaón could recall in Spain occurred two years ago when a Canadian factory stopped making trace elements. His hospital pharmacy immediately secured the product from a Swedish manufacturer and had it for patients within two days.

Hospital staff wonder why the FDA hasn’t already put a process in place to streamline foreign inspections and certifications so that labs abroad can manufacture emergency supplies on short notice.

Jensen says the FDA is working on it and that imported nutrients will be shipped soon: “It took a long time to find companies willing to do it, mainly because they couldn’t meet US needs and didn’t have the ability to ramp up for the US. The good news is we’ve got different firms willing to do this for phosphates, zinc, and trace elements. We moved as quickly as we could.”

Yes, moved as quickly as they could. (Not)

You can be certain that a (castrated over the past few decades) FDA is consulting with the manufacturers, so as to avoid hurting their business models.

“The FDA has repeatedly told us that the shortages are short-term and that they don’t need to import yet,” says neonatologist Steve Abrams of Texas Children’s Hospital. “There’s been a general sense that this problem will go away if we just wait until next Tuesday, and next Tuesday just hasn’t come for the last 2½ years.

They keep kicking the can down the road, because they, and the congressmen who vote on their budget, ahve been captured by pharma.

We Do Not Need This Congressional Seat This Much

I am talking about North Carolina’s 7th district, and its current incumbent, “Democrat” Mike McIntyre:

Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) told North Carolina television station WECT that he’s unhappy the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay youth.

“I’m very disappointed,” McIntyre said. “I know my church has a long history of producing Eagle Scouts including my son and I know that many organizations that sponsor scouting are quite concerned about that and did not feel like it was an appropriate step. I know I’m concerned about it and did not think it was an appropriate step.”

No surprise that it’s also a member of the Blue Dog caucus.

We do not need Democrats who openly endorse bigotry.

Hopefully, he gets a primary challenge, but I just checked out Act Blue, and right now, he is the only candidate.

All You Need to Know About Barack Obama is that His Crucial Mentor is Penny Pritzker

Without Penny Pritzker, the scion of the Hyatt hotel chain, Barack Obama would have never achieved anything in politics. She was the first, and arguably the most enthusiastic, big money donor to fund the political career of that guy with the funny name.

The most recent news is that she had to modify the financial disclosure forms that she filed when she was submitted as commerce secretary, because she understated her pay from her consulting by at least $80 million.

What makes this even worse is that these wages were pay to offshore funds to avoid taxes:

And also like many of the plutocrats in America Pritzker has a lot of tax abnormalities involving offshore accounts. But now Prtizker is under fire for providing a false financial disclosure statement which she has since amended.

Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker inadvertently understated a portion of her income by at least $80 million in a disclosure form required for her nomination to be U.S. Commerce secretary and has amended the document.
Forms released online last night by the Office of Government Ethics show that Pritzker earned additional income for consulting work on hundreds of trusts, including family trusts, beyond what she disclosed last week. The omission, discovered by Pritzker’s financial advisers, was due to a clerical error, said Susan Anderson, the nominee’s spokeswoman

Not surprisingly Pritzker makes a nice chunk of change “consulting” with other 1%ers.

Documents released last week show Pritzker received $32.2 million for a decade’s worth of consulting on the restructuring of domestic trusts. The filings released yesterday show she earned at least $80 million for that work, according to Bloomberg’s compilation of the data. The revised total is in addition to the amount reported last week, according to Anderson.

Pritzker, whose family founded Hyatt Hotels Corp, is scheduled to testify on her nomination before the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. She disclosed last week that she earned $54 million in consulting fees last year for a similar restructuring of trusts based in the Bahamas, also over 10 years. The Bahamas’ income wasn’t changed in the amended disclosure document.

Just what we need in a Commerce Secretary, someone who knows how to help companies offshore their profits to avoid tax liabilities.

Also, she has a long history of avoiding taxes through arcane instruments and offshoring for her own benefit.

We also have the the fact that she profited at taxpayer expense when she ran Superior Bank into the ground by aggressively pursuing subprime loans.  (Also here)

Also, as head of Hyatt, she has a long history of being virulently anti labor union, (also here.) as well as being a big supporter of Rahm Emanuel’s plans to privatize public education.

And finally there are the longstanding family ties between the family fortune and organized crime.

The reason that this is important is not because of her nomination.  The Commerce Secretary’s job has traditionally been the aggressive support of what is now called “the 1%”.

Her relationship to Barack Obama is important because it defines his entire political career.

It’s why we are not seeing a pursuit of the banksters, and we are seeing a pursuit of a “grand bargain” on Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, which will have grandma eating cat food.*

*In the interest of health, I would suggest that people eat dog food, and not cat food. Cats because they are one of the few true carnivores, do not need the complex carbohydrates and fats that people, and dogs do. As such, dog food is better for you than cat food because it provides carbs and essential fatty acids. A dog can go blind if it is fed on cat food, but a cat lives just fine on dog food. The phenomenon is known as rabbit starvation.

Shoot Me Now!

Well, this sucks:

President Obama held a private meeting with top national security journalists on Thursday afternoon following his national security policy address at the National Defense University in Washington, POLITICO has learned.

Present at the meeting were Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist; Gerald Seib, the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau chief; Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of the Washington Post; David Igantius, the Washington Post columnist; Jeffrey Goldberg, the Atlantic correspondent and Bloomberg View columnist; and Joe Klein, the Time Magazine columnist.


This is like a rogues gallery of people who are wrong about everything.

This May Be the Best Snark so Far this Century

When Robert Gibbs was asked about a Maureen Dowd article criticizing Obama, he replied that he did not read her regularly, because she had been writing the same article for the past 8 years:

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Gibbs was asked if he happened to read Dowd’s latest column, in which she called Obama “a sad sack” who could use a little bit more John F. Kennedy.

“I don’t normally read Maureen,” Gibbs said. “I don’t largely because it’s sort of largely the same column for the last, like, eight years.”

That’s going to leave a mark.

Bigotry is as Bigotry Does

It appears that the Southern Baptist convention does not support the Boy Scouts if they do not allow them to be bigots:

Reaction to the Boy Scouts of America’s decision yesterday to allow openly gay scouts but continue the ban on gay adult leaders is drawing intense reaction from all sides.


Richard Land, an executive with the Southern Baptist Convention, said he expected many churches to quit sponsoring scout troops. “Frankly, I can’t imagine a Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules,” Land, president of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told the Baptist Press news service. “I predict there will be a mass exodus of Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians from the Boy Scouts.

Not “approving” of homosexuality may not necessarily make you a homophobic bigot, but demanding the right to what is a public accommodation on the basis of your disapproval does make you a homophobic bigot.

In the case of the Southern Baptist Convention, I am not surprised by this. Their bigotry dates back to their origins as a schismatic movement dedicated to promulgating slavery.