Many of my articles have been based on what I perceive as something wrong with our society, politics, priorities and the like. But sometimes the complaint, problem or suggested solution is too limited for a whole article most of which seem to be in the 1500-2500 word range, so I include it in an article about several topics which I have called my “rants”: the first one and the second. And, having made a little list of my latest complaints and issues, each too limited for a full article, I am offering to my reader(s) “yet another rant”.
First, I have to complain about the the sorry state of health information in the US. We saw this early in the pandemic from the Trump administration’s disgraceful handling of essential information. First, we experienced the cover-up of the severity and deadliness of the pandemic from the chief executive himself, then during dozens of presidential press conferences we were treated to exhortations to treat infections with disinfectants and the like while qualified medical personnel stood by, mentally rolling their eyes in disbelief and wringing their hands in frustration, never themselves offering us anything more concrete than masks, “social distancing” and hand washing. And they couldn’t even agree on the best kind of mask or tell us where they were available. I clearly remember the panic my wife and I felt when absolutely no masks were available anywhere and we were reduced to madly fashioning some from whatever we could find, including sewing a few primitive cloth masks on her sewing machine. In retrospect I don’t know why medical authorities could not have sent several good masks to every citizen, certainly preventing a significant number of infections and saving many lives.
And smooth-talking HHS secretary and former Eli Lily big pharma executive Alex Azar (a perfect example of the “revolving door” between government and private employment) frequently disagreed or talked over and around Trump CDC director Robert Redfield. Then we cringed to see how Redfield sacrificed himself and the lofty reputation of his agency on the altar of Trump by acquiescing to politics, watering down recommendations to mere suggestions, overruling scientists and generally destroying the integrity of his agency and public trust in it.
And we aren’t a whole lot better off right now, with obscenely wealthy corporations like Pfizer apparently running the show and hapless and helpless CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stumbling through her public pronouncements. Early on, with reckless and needless hyperbole, she warned that COVID may be “just a few mutations” away from being able “to evade our vaccine in terms of how it protects us from severe disease and death.” Then she decided to overrule her own agency’s advisory panel and recommend boosters for workers whose jobs require often interacting with the public.
On related matters with booster shots, she first called for boosters for vaccinated people who were over 65 or who had compromised immune systems or other chronic conditions. Now it’s boosters for everyone except children. Oh, I forgot, first it was Pfizer boosters only – then eventually, after panicking those who had received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, approving those boosters, or, without supporting detail, it was okay go ahead and “mix or match”. Of course with Pfizer calling the shots (pardon the pun) one might wonder what CDC’s relationship with Pfizer really is. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the entity first calling for boosters at all was Pfizer itself, not the CDC. And it was Pfizer and not our government that first announced suitability of their vaccine for children. Hmmm, lots more shots…lots more money for profits, stockholders and CEO. And I’ve already noted in an earlier article that Pfizer fancies itself a quasi government entity, bustling all over the world making deals with foreign governments for vaccine sales, totally independent of the US State Department or federal health agencies.
But it’s not only during the “covid age” when we’ve been misled by our well funded and supposedly brilliant and far-reaching health authorities. Remember the “low fat” recommendations that were supposed to save us from cholesterol, clogged arteries and heart attacks? What happened to that? All of us scrambled madly to avoid fat in our diets. But not a word was said about sugar, the much more likely cause of heart problems than fat as I recounted in my article about sugar. And we suddenly found out that many fats were actually good for us. Really? Why did that take so long?
And then there were the warnings that one of the most nutritious natural foods available to us – simple, everyday eggs – were responsible for cholesterol and clogged arteries, so many of us, including myself, compromised our nutrition by dramatically reducing egg consumption. In fact I recall foolishly boasting to my cardiologist (back when I had one) that I was down to eating just one or two eggs a week.
Yet another example of bad information was the almost universal advice that all of we older people who feared heart attacks should consider taking low dose aspirin every day. Yes, I’m sure the king of aspirin manufacturing, Bayer, influenced this decision – look at all the money they made. Well just recently the CDC reversed itself on this too, because apparently the potential harm of daily intake of low dose aspirin is likely to outweigh any benefits. And why did they just discover this – now, after all these years?
And remember the old “food pyramid” published by the Department of Agriculture to help us with wise food choices? Debuting in 1992, its broad base suggested lots of refined carbohydrates, the middle recommended meat and milk items and the tip fats – all of it lousy (and dangerous) advice since we know now how beneficial many fats are and how dangerous refined carbs are. After many revisions over the years, most very misleading and ultimately useless, it’s been replaced by the “plate” – introduced by Michelle Obama and corporate farm advocate Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak (incidentally now still plying his corporate craft in the same position for the Biden administration) – perhaps a slight improvement but ultimately of only marginal utility. Yet both the succession of “pyramids” and “plates” were presented to millions of school children as the nutritional gospel. Poor, innocent kids.
Another issue I have to complain about (again? I think I complained in another recent article) is our corporatization of the fight against the covid pandemic. The worst aspect of the behavior of these corporate behemoths raking in billions in profits is that they have refused to share their patents or formulae for covid vaccines with the world, choosing instead to market them to countries willing to cough up the millions necessary to buy enough doses to vaccinate their populations. Especially egregious is Moderna’s refusal, since their vaccine was developed with the support of millions of federal dollars from the NHA, along with the knowledge and expertise of many NHA scientists. This might be a good place to note that in a 1955 interview, American virologist Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine, was asked who owned the patent. He replied, “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” No one became fabulously rich developing, distributing and administering the polio vaccine. And now?
Moderna, the company that never manufactured anything of consequence before the pandemic, has now placed five newly minted billionaires on the Forbes 500 richest list. And guess what, a full forty new billionaires from other companies have been created from the fight against the pandemic. What should have been a cooperative nonprofit effort by governments all over the world has turned out to be a wild corporate competition for riches and a bonanza for these greedy forty.
Why on earth didn’t we nationalize these greedy corporations and have the government manufacture the masks, the personal protective equipment, the billions of vaccine doses needed all over the world and send it all to poor nations completely free? We all knew that if the whole world did not get vaccinated we would see deadly variants emerge. And sure enough, South Africa, with its less than 30 percent vaccination rate, has presented the world with the Omicron variant threat. Will we now shift into high gear and vaccinate the world? As long a corporations are calling the shots (again – pardon the pun), I think not. Rich countries are at fault for the formation and spread of this latest covid variant – failure to curb corporate greed, read Pfizer and Moderns, and vaccinate the whole world. We could have stopped it and did not.
It might be worth noting that poor, humble little Cuba, wracked by cruel unnecessary US economic sanctions, has all by itself, manufactured effective covid vaccines that it plans to share with the world. Yes, Cuba’s public medical sector, note “public”, no corporations or profit involved, with its strong commitment to public health, has successfully manufactured its own vaccines. One hundred percent of its population has now had at least once dose and the country has reopened its schools and businesses and is now open for tourism as well. What a contrast to our own country where public health and vaccines are a commodity, to be bought and sold, and to be profited from.
Also related to the sorry state of health matters in our beloved country is the fact that the cost of Medicare, deducted from our Social Security checks, is going up. Yes, because the FDA has recklessly and irresponsibly approved a frightfully expensive and likely useless drug, Aduhelm, to treat Alzheimers, which will cost $56,000 a year, Medicare Part B is increasing its monthly premium from $148.50 to $170.10 in 2022, in case prescribing this drug, which experts say should cost no more than $8000 per year, causes a huge bump in Medicare drug spending.
And another item – Republican obstructionism. I can visualize Republican Representatives and Senators getting up in the morning, getting ready for work, and going in and having a simple and stress-free day – not much effort, no thought – just obstruction. If you are a Republican legislator, you don’t really have to come up with ideas, programs or policies to help the country or to assist your constituents. You just have to come into your office and decide what and how to obstruct that day. Pretty simple job description, isn’t it? Honestly, when is the last time you heard or read of a big Republican legislative program? You’d pretty much have to go back to Trump’s infamous “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” in 2017, which did not help anyone except the wealthy and corporations. Otherwise it’s been obstruction all the way. Yet amazingly this intellectually bankrupt political party, a minority party mind you, is poised to take over both houses of Congress in 2022 and because of voter suppression and gerrymandering I am sure will assume the presidency in 2024.
As part of this obstructionism and non-governing, I have to add the question of why we seem to be the only industrialized nation on earth that regularly brings itself to the point of financial collapse by threatening to refuse to raise the “debt ceiling” or “pass the spending bill” or whatever, potentially leading the US government to default on its debts and cause an implosion of world credit markets. This unrelenting political and financial brinkmanship is practiced periodically by Republicans as blackmail to achieve certain objectives, this time to prevent Biden’s vaccine mandates from being imposed.
And I have a few things to say about Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Why is she so revered, worshipped and venerated? If I read another article about how wonderful it was that she shared a love of opera with and even attended performances with fellow justice Antonin Scalia, I’ll be sick. In spite of her notable work as a jurist on issues like gender equity and women’s rights, to me her greatest legacy is her arrogance resulting in opening the door and keeping it open for a generation long conservative majority on the court by staying on the Court for far too long despite her body telling her again and again that she needed to retire. Her first encounter with cancer came in 1999 and even after several more bouts and declaring herself “cancer free” in 2020 she finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer later that year, enabling President Donald Trump to appoint Amy Conan Barrett, his third Supreme Court Justice.
If Ginsberg had been a little less arrogant and had listened to her body and her doctors, President Barack Obama could have appointed her replacement. Thus to me, Ginsberg’s most lasting legacy was her sense of superiority, of her indispensability. “I’ve said many times that I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam,” Ginsburg said in RBG, after she was asked about the calls for her to retire. “And when I can’t, that will be the time I will step down.” Well there were many times during her struggles with cancer that she could not do her job “full steam” and should have stepped down but her insufferable pride and hubris kept her there long enough for her replacement to be named by a Republican president. So when I think of Ginsberg, I don’t think of her legal ability or her importance on the Court. I can only see her foolish self-centered pride.
On another very important current issue, I cannot believe that my own Democratic Party is messing around with the SALT deduction. This limit on the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted from federal taxable income was the sole progressive element of Donald Trump’s infamous “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”, likely included in the legislation to “get back” at high tax blue states where state and local taxes were high enough to make a difference on some wealthy taxpayers federal income tax obligations. But now, to appease effected high income taxpayers, donors I am sure, in their states, many Democratic senators have proposed canceling or adjusting this limit. Corporate Democrat Senator Bob Menendez has even referred to it as “the SALT cap nightmare for 99% of NJ families”, a blatant lie, since the cap effects just the most wealthy. But I am furious that any Democrats at all are behind the push to raise or abandon this limit since doing so is quite simply a tax cut for the wealthy.
Another long standing gripe I have is with our Congress pouring money into the Pentagon. The last insult was a short time ago when Congress gave our reckless and feckless military not only all of its latest budget request of $715 billion but also added an unsolicited allotment of another $25.5 billion. And these are the same people that cry about the deficit and wring their hands because there’s no money with which to expand Medicare or provide paid family leave or free community college. The United States spends more on its military that the next 11 highest nations combined, an absolutely incredible fact. And our Pentagon spending is never audited. Our mindless largesse is pretty much a blank check for these uniformed fools to spend any way they wish. And has our vaunted military won any wars recently?
And also making me quite angry is that this monstrous bill for “defense” is deemed a “must pass” by our Congress, while Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill is being whittled down to nothing in an effort to please “King Coal” Manchin and self-styled “maverick”, Kyrsten Sinema.
And related to the military, I have had to sit through the few NFL games I chose to watch recently and look at a host of coaches, Gatorade boys and various other hangers-on sporting expensive military garb for their “Salute to Service”. What nonsense. Precious few players, coaches and other personnel have ever served in the military. That “privilege”, since the military abandoned the draft, mostly falls to the poor, the marginalized, immigrants, Native Americans and people of color. So is all this hoopla to ease their guilty consciences? What about the cost of the military jet flyovers, the cost of all the clothing? I wrote about his deplorable practice a long time ago, December 2017 to be exact, and can’t believe the NFL is still doing it. Again, as my article suggested – why not give this monstrous pile of superfluous clothing or the money it took to buy it to the needy or to the Salvation Army or other worthy charity? Or why not honor some segments of society that are involved in helping and building, not killing and destroying – like perhaps teachers, Doctors without Borders or Peace Corps volunteers. What a terrible waste of resources….and it is still going on.
I would also like to say a few words to Republicans who are so concerned about government spending and inflation. Interesting how no one was concerned when a gaping hole was blown in the budget with Trump’s “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”, a piece of legislation which really cut taxes for the wealthy and for corporations, not you and I and which did not create any jobs. Instead of investing and hiring more people, corporations indulged in stock buybacks with their newfound bonanza. It’s demand that induces corporations to invest and hire anyhow, not enormous profits.
I’m no economist but here’s my take on the causes of recent inflation and how to rein it in. First, there was a huge amount of pent-up demand stored in the economy because of the covid pandemic. People didn’t go to restaurants, to the movies or to live performances. Shopping malls were dead zones. While they still ordered some hard goods over the internet and kept the “essential workers” at the post office, Fedex and UPS busy, the net result was that they had tons of money left over, augmented by the checks from the federal government covid relief programs, sitting in their accounts. And as a result, production of all sorts of goods, even agricultural products, slowed. Now that things have loosened up, people are trying to spend this money, putting a serious strain on production and distribution of goods and thus temporarily raising prices.
Another reason we are wrestling with inflation now and Republicans and Larry Summers are gleefully pointing their fingers at Democratic spending bills, is that indeed we have spent a great deal of money on fighting the pandemic and on keeping the economy strong. But we have not raised taxes at all to pay for these programs. Thus, yes indeed, there is a great deal of money sloshing around the economy chasing too few goods right now. Increased taxation, particularly of corporations and the wealthy, would reduce it. But curiously, the Democrats seem reluctant to raise taxes on those most able to pay, on those who have profited mightily from the pandemic. I find it quite interesting that after the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and the Trump “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” of 2017, the Democratic Party, even when in power, has never chosen or never been able to restore them to their former levels. Even Biden’s much ballyhooed Infrastructure and Build Back Better bill, have not been funded anywhere near completely but instead by a few half hearted inadequate increases on corporations and the wealthy and some wishful thinking about what a boost in IRS funding would yield from wealthy cheaters.
In addition, vastly more industries have monopolized in recent years, making it much easier for them to raise prices arbitrarily to increase their bottom line for their investors and their overpaid CEO’s. It’s absolutely astonishing that our government has given up on fighting monopoly and concentration of production and distribution. As a sample, check out the stats in this important publication.
Another thing that really annoys me and should upset everyone else are the continual attacks on the US Postal Service mostly by our Republican friends. The complaints about subsidies for this essential service and calls for it to be “profitable” do not make any sense to me. The Post Office performs an essential service for us. What it charges via stamps and fees for mail processing and delivery defrays a significant portion of that expense and if that’s not enough to pay its bills, the federal government plugs the holes. And why shouldn’t it – the post office serves the whole country. In small towns it serves as place where people meet, chat and gossip while they deliver or pick up their mail. I oppose the continual shrill Republican calls to privatize the Post Office, as if that were any kind of solution. Oh sure, let’s privatize the post office and stuff the pockets of a “Post Office Corporation”, its new stockholders and CEO.
If we are serious about increasing Post Office revenue and making it more self sufficient, we need to consider restoring a role it enjoyed from 1911 to 1967 – providing banking services to customers through the Postal Services Savings System. Many other countries still provide banking services through their post offices. We also need to take a look at how domestic shipping prohibitions and restrictions limit revenue and provide opportunities for competitors like Fedex and UPS. We do not need to reduce costs and increase revenue by cutting personnel and slowing down delivery, as Trump holdover Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is trying to do.
Another item – I am so overjoyed that we now have a “Space Force” general – yes, replete with uniform, lots of medals and a high salary. Don’t believe me? Check out a recent Washington Post column by Josh Rogin. Yes, we not only have divided the entire world into “Combatant Commands”, like European Command, Central Command and a bunch of others covering the entire globe, but, lucky for us, our Defense Department has added a “Space Force” command and now we have a real Space Force general. I am sure before too long we’ll be conducting yet another cold war with China and Russia in outer space as they “attack our space assets” and we have to stock space with bigger and better “assets”. Really I had a hard time telling whether Rogin was writing his article with tongue in cheek. But I guess he was serious, demonstrating once again how sacrosanct the military is to both our Congress and our media. Oh, my God, Space General David Thompson cries that “US satellites are being attacked every day!” We need to retaliate!
And yet another example of Republican hypocrisy – individual rights and sanctity of the body when refusing covid vaccines, yet not where abortion rights are concerned. A woman’s right to control her body is okay if she’s refusing a vaccine and endangering herself and those around her, but is not acceptable when she’s pregnant by rape or incest or her health is threatened by pregnancy or childbirth. Incredible how the far right so selectively yells, “My body, my choice”. And furthermore, how is it that the far right is so reverential about life from conception to birth, yet so non-caring about supporting life afterward – promoting a culture of violence, flooding the country with guns and the world with military weaponry, supporting an obscene Pentagon budget and cheering the death penalty, while making war on medicine and universal healthcare, popular gun safety laws, housing for the indigent and a most spare and basic safety net for our citizens.
Thus concludes my latest “rant”. Yes, of course, I’m angry and upset about many other things that I experience daily or read or watch in the media but I’ll have to save those for another time. Oh wait, sorry, I have to mention this one. Recently my wife and I have summoned the courage to purchase tickets and venture out for a couple of concerts, our first since the pandemic began. And while announcements were quite consistent in requiring proof of vaccination to enter and mask wearing during the concerts, we were both terribly upset to see about half of the audience remove their masks upon finding their seats and sitting down. Why? And why didn’t the concert authorities insist that masks be kept on. These unserious and careless acts permeate other activities as well. Simple shopping trips in our area have also revealed a reckless mix of mask wearing or not, both by employees and customers, confounding and contradicting what should be a collective unified struggle against this dreadful pandemic. Very disturbing indeed. But what to do? Where to start?
On the day I plan to publish this article, I was subjected to a news report that again made me very angry, so I have to end with a comment on the issue it raised – that of human rights. The US has decided not to award diplomatic recognition to the Winter Olympics in China, although our athletes may attend and compete. Why? Because of China’s “human rights record”. Please… spare me. How dare we condemn the human rights record of any nation while we turn a blind eye to the everyday human rights abuses of our “staunchest ally”, Israel. This rogue nation goes on murdering and maiming Palestinians and stealing their land, homes and livelihoods every single day, with complete impunity. American politicians at every level remain two faced and hypocritical about human rights, fearing that by raising a voice or finger against Israel might turn off the money spigot that funds their campaigns. So no more talk about the human rights abuses in China unless we also talk about them in Israel.
There, I’m done.