- Parrish Hearing Postponed
- Navarro Flatlines
- Stornetta Celebration
- Library Broadband
- MTA Fare Increase
- Immigration Checkpoints
- Catch of the Day
- Weapons Industry
- I Hear an Army
- Medi-Cal Numbers
- Death Penalty Dying
- Carving Up Stockton
- Corporate Capitalism
- Spiritual Invitations
WILL PARRISH WRITES: "My restitution hearing, which had been scheduled for tomorrow morning in Judge Behnke's courtroom, is postponed again. The DA's office now takes the stance of wanting to pursue out-of-court mediation prior to a hearing."
WILL'S HEARING was scheduled for this Thursday (July 17) at 9:30am.
A READER WRITES: "I wanted to pass an idea that I had along in regards to perhaps including the Navarro cfs totals with your weekly rainfall info that you include in the paper. As you can see the flows just crashed. They have been taking a steady downturn, but this is the lowest on record that we have since 1950. I will confirm that the gauge is indeed still working but this is reflective of what has been happening over the past weeks/months, a steady decline. In the recent past and in 76'-77' we have seen .50 cfs for a 1-3 weeks, but not until the end of August early September."
DESPITE THE POINT ARENA CITY COUNCIL'S fresh resolution to depopulate Mendocino County's smallest incorporated town by removing drunks and drug addicts from its streets, the jewel of the fog belt will, if they can muster enough sober citizens, celebrate the federal acquisition of Stornetta Lands this Saturday (the 26th.) The Stornetta property, at least the seaside portion of it, is now part of the federal park system.
LISTEN UP, WALLY!
Letter to Interim Library Director Mr. Wally Clark
To: Wally Clark, Interim County Librarian
105 N. Main Street, Ukiah, CA 95482
Dear Mr. Clark:
It has recently come to our attention that the Mendocino County Public Library put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for upgraded broadband services at all five branch libraries in the county, and received proposals from several companies. A local Internet provider, WillitsOnline, was selected as the winning proposal. This proposal was contingent upon funding from the federal E-Rate program. Recently, WillitsOnline received the Funding Commitment Decision letter from the Federal E-rate program’s administrative authority approving funding for this project.
The Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County wishes to express its full and complete support for this project and a local company, WillitsOnline. The Coast’s library branches and other inland branches do not meet the California broadband standards of 6 Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload; this lack of connectivity impacts all of our County residents, as libraries are often the only provider of free public access in a community. Students without broadband access at home rely on their local library for online classes that are so crucial to growing one’s own education and career prospects.
There is a widening urban versus rural college completion gap which has now grown to 12.6 percentage points. Distance learning can help close that gap for our rural areas, but broadband is an absolute necessity for taking part in today’s online curricula with its reliance on graphics, audio materials, films, and real-time conferencing. Every percentage point decrease in college graduation rates represents lost wages and economic activity for individuals and rural counties.
WillitsOnline has been in business for twelve years, and has provided many hours of volunteer effort on behalf of our libraries and communities. The proposal is a great deal for the County, providing all around superior service to every branch of the library. In addition, WillitsOnline plans to leverage the E-rate libraries contract to create a business case to expand services to surrounding communities and businesses wherever possible. This type of innovative and community-minded approach has happened before, but not nearly enough. Having a vision to leverage a good project even further is what is needed to begin to close the Digital Divide in our county, and level the economic playing field to bring prosperity to our county.
We applaud the County for their foresight and vision in selecting our local provider WillitOnline for this contract, and we respectfully request that the contract be signed without delay so that this project can be started as soon as possible. Our libraries – and their surrounding communities – are in desperate need.
Chairman, Broadband Alliance
MTA TO RAISE FARES JULY 27, 2014
On May 22, 2014, the Mendocino Transit Authority’s Board of Directors approved a system-wide fare increase effective July 27, 2014. The one zone cash fare will increase by 20 percent, from $1.25 to $1.50, while leaving the fare to travel between zones at $.75. In order to lessen the impact of the raise on passengers, punch passes and monthly passes will only receive a 13% increase.
Passengers can still obtain great savings by purchasing MTA’s punch and monthly passes. The flexible Punch Pass, at $17.00, has 16 punches that riders can use any time, in any direction offers up to 30% off the cash fares. Frequent riders can take advantage of additional savings by buying a Monthly Pass. The monthly pass allows for unlimited bus rides for the full calendar month and will sell for $35.00 for one zone, $57.00 for two zones and $85.00 for three zones. The more you ride, the more you save. Senior and disabled passengers pay half price on cash and punch passes.
Fort Bragg and Ukiah Dial-A-Ride fares will increase from $5.00 to $6.00 for the central zone. Children when riding with a fare-paying Dial-A-Ride passenger will pay $1.25 up from $1.00. Seniors and persons with disabilities also ride Dial-A-Ride for half price.
The need for a fare increase stems from both a budget shortfall and MTA’s low farebox recovery, fares collected divided by operating costs. MTA last raised cash fares in 2009 and then in 2010 raised the prices of passes by 25%. Since then, cost of fuel, insurance, wages and other costs of doing business have steadily increased.
“The State requires that we maintain a 14.7% farebox recovery. Recently our farebox recovery is hovering around 14.3%. Balancing the budget of a transportation system with today’s high cost of fuel and other expenses, requires increasing our revenue sources. ” explains General Manager Dan Baxter.
Baxter estimates that the fare increase will generate an additional $74,000 in revenue and raise the farebox ratio to 15.8%.
For more information regarding MTA’s fare increase, please call 462.5765 or 800.696.4682.
How US Citizens Can Refuse Illegal Immigration Checkpoints
HS agents have recently set up constitutionally-questionable “security checkpoints” up to 100 miles inside U.S. territory. If you should drive into one of these roadblocks, you are not required to answer the agent’s questions (usually starting with “Are you a United States citizen?”). Nor are you required to consent to any searches. Some people will say that this man is a trouble maker for doing this, and he should simply consent to answer the questions. Some people will also willingly kneel down to lick the boots of their oppressors. However, it is the ‘trouble makers’ of the world that shed light on ridiculous legislation by refusing to comply with illegal orders and who spark peaceful change; not the boot lickers. Be a trouble maker, peacefully resist!
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 16, 2014
ROBERT CAMPBELL, Ukiah. Public intoxication, parole violation. (Frequent flyer)
VALERIE DUERNER, Willits. Misdemeanor child abuse or endangerment, under the influence of a controlled substance, violation of court order.
FINN EGGINK, Fort Bragg. Trespassing, public nuisance.
PAUL FLYNN, San Antonio. Felony possession for sale of marijuana, felony proceeds acquired from drug transactions, misdemeanor conspiracy.
STANDFORD GLASS, Ukiah. Felony possession of methamphetamine, probation revoked. (Frequent flier.)
KRISTEN GOEN, Ukiah. Public intoxication of alcohol.
JUSTIN GREGORIO, McKinleyville. Robbery.
THOMAS LANGENDERFER, Fort Bragg. Felony grand theft, failure to appear, probation revoked.
OSCAR LOPEZ, Ukiah. Pot possession, possession of drug money, conspiracy, attempted unspecified criminality.
STACEY MODDRELLE, Willits, Public intoxication of alcohol. (Frequent flier.)
CASEY PRINCE, Fairfax. Public intoxication of alcohol.
JUSTIN SLAGLE, Willits. Misdemeanor threatening with a weapon other than a gun.
STANSLAV TIKHONOV, San Diego. Trespassing, resuses to identify self to peace officer, destroying jail property, offense code not in table (mystery!).
JUDITH VARGAS, Ukiah. Felony Probation Violation (two counts)
TOMMY WHITE, Ukiah. Public intoxication of alcohol.
OSCAR ARIAS SANCHEZ President of Costa Rica, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end civil wars across Central America through the Esquipulas II Accords: “When a country decides to invest in arms, rather than in education, housing, the environment, and health services for its people, it is depriving a whole generation of its right to prosperity and happiness. We have produced one firearm for every ten inhabitants of this planet, and yet we have not bothered to end hunger when such a feat is well within our reach. Our international regulations allow almost three-quarters of all global arms sales to pour into the developing world with no binding international guidelines whatsoever. Our regulations do not hold countries accountable for what is done with the weapons they sell, even when the probable use of such weapons is obvious.” Costa Rica has no military.
I HEAR AN ARMY charging upon the land,
And the thunder of horses plunging, foam about their knees:
Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
Disdaining the reins, with fluttering whips, the charioteers.
They cry unto the night their battle-name:
I moan in sleep when I hear afar their whirling laughter.
They cleave the gloom of dreams, a blinding flame,
Clanging, clanging upon the heart as upon an anvil.
They come shaking in triumph their long, green hair:
They come out of the sea and run shouting by the shore.
My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?
My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?
— James Joyce
FEWER DOCTORS ENROLLED IN LOW-INCOME INSURANCE PROGRAM DESPITE SURGE IN PATIENTS
By Hannah Guzik
Nearly 25% fewer physicians were signed up to treat low-income patients in the state’s insurance program this spring compared to a year prior, despite the surge in patients enrolled in Medi-Cal.
The drop in providers is due to the Department of Health Care Services’ efforts to remove doctors who haven’t complied with application requirements or billed the program in a year, spokesman Anthony Cava said.
“This has not resulted in a decrease in access to care,” he said.
More than 2 million people have signed up for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health plan, since the program was expanded under the Affordable Care Act. In total, 10.6 million people are enrolled — a quarter of the state’s population.
An additional 600,000 people are still waiting for the state to process their applications.
About 109,000 physicians were enrolled in Medi-Cal last spring, according to the Health Care department. But by this May, that number had dropped to 82,605.
Of the doctors enrolled in May, 38,845 were primary-care providers and 43,760 were specialists.
In the last year, the Health Care department has updated its provider requirements, as part of the Affordable Care Act, Cava said. Those requirements “have strengthened the department’s ability to deny or terminate providers who do not comply with application requirements,” he said.
On its own, the agency’s list of providers isn’t necessarily a reflection of whether Medi-Cal patients have sufficient access to doctors. The list doesn’t specify whether the doctors are accepting new patients or how many they can accept, Cava said. While some doctors on the list may have up to 2,000 Medi-Cal patients, others might see only a handful or none.
A FEDERAL JUDGE DECLARED CALIFORNIA'S DEATH PENALTY UNCONSTITUTIONAL Wednesday, saying delays of 25 years or more in deciding appeals and carrying out occasional executions have created an arbitrary and irrational system that serves no legitimate purpose.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of Santa Ana was limited to a single case and had no immediate impact on executions statewide, which have been halted by federal courts since 2006 because of multiple problems in lethal injection procedures.
But if upheld on appeal, the decision would end a California capital punishment system that has been approved by the voters three times - in 1972, 1978 and 2012, when an initiative to abolish the death penalty lost by 4 percentage points. Despite voter sentiment, the death penalty in California has rarely been implemented in recent decades.
The state has the nation's largest Death Row, with 748 inmates, and its lowest execution rate, with 13 inmates put to death since 1992.
As Carney noted, out of more than 900 convicted murderers sentenced to death since voters passed the current death penalty law in 1978, far more - 94 - have died from illnesses, suicide or other causes than on the executioner's table. An additional 39 have had their sentences reduced by the courts.
For most condemned prisoners, "systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death," said Carney, a 2003 appointee of President George W. Bush.
That delay, Carney said, "has resulted in the arbitrary selection of a small handful of individuals for execution."
He said more than 40 percent of the current inmates have been on Death Row for more than 19 years, including Ernest Jones, sentenced to death in 1995 for a rape and murder in Orange County. Jones' lawyers challenged the death penalty system in his appeal, and Carney said his long stay on Death Row was the product of an unconstitutional system.
A statewide order could come from the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, where the state can appeal Carney's ruling. Attorney General Kamala Harris is reviewing the decision, said spokesman Nick Pacilio. There was no comment from Gov. Jerry Brown, who, like Harris, personally opposes the death penalty but defended it in court when he was the state's attorney general.
The issue could then head to the US Supreme Court, which reinstated capital punishment nationwide in 1976 - four years after declaring all state death penalty laws unconstitutional - but in recent years has narrowed its scope somewhat, banning executions of juveniles and the mentally disabled.
"Other states have comparable problems in terms of rarely executing people, and long years of delay," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. "This case has the potential to be a very important one."
Out of 18 states that have abolished the death penalty, he said, six - Maryland, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut - have done so since 2007, all after long periods with few executions. There were 3,000 prisoners on Death Row nationwide last year, but only 39 executions, Dieter said.
The ruling "further proves that the death penalty is broken beyond repair," said Gil Garcetti, who sought numerous death sentences as Los Angeles County district attorney but joined the 2012 initiative campaign to repeal capital punishment. "It is exorbitantly costly, unfair and serves no legitimate purpose."
Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, predicted the ruling would be overturned on appeal. Other courts have ruled that long waits on death row are mainly due to inmates' appeals, not constitutional violations by the state, Scheidegger said, and the same holds true in California.
But Carney said the delays in California aren't caused by needless appeals or by the state's legitimate efforts to safeguard defendants' rights, but by the "dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system."
Inmates sentenced to death must wait three to five years for a court-appointed lawyer and nearly 14 years for the California Supreme Court to make an initial ruling on their case, with further delays in additional appeals to the state and federal courts, Carney said.
"When the state permits the post-conviction review process to become so inordinately and unnecessarily delayed that only an arbitrarily selected few of those sentenced to death are executed, the state's process violates the Eighth Amendment," which bans cruel and unusual punishment, the judge said.
He noted that a statewide commission headed by former Attorney General John Van de Kamp concluded in 2008 that the death-penalty system had broken down and recommended changes that were largely ignored. They included a substantial increase in funding for legal representation.
The last time California's death penalty was struck down was in 1972, when the state Supreme Court ruled that executions were degrading and inhumane and violated the state Constitution. The voters overturned that ruling in November 1972.
In 2006, a federal judge in San Jose halted executions statewide after finding that flaws in lethal injection procedures and staff training at San Quentin State Prison created an undue risk of a botched and agonizingly painful execution. The ruling has preserved the lives of 17 inmates who have exhausted all other appeals.
As a result, "we don't have a functioning death penalty in California," said Ellen Kreitzberg, a law professor at Santa Clara University and director of its Death Penalty College, which trains capital defense lawyers. She said Wednesday's ruling could carry additional weight, coming from "a conservative Bush appointee known for harsh sentences."
(Courtesy, Associated Press)
CARVING UP STOCKTON
Wealthy Bondholders Seek to Force Bankruptcy Losses on Retired City Workers
by Darwin Bond-Graham
In 2007 the city of Stockton, California was riding the nation’s housing boom. Property tax revenues had more than doubled over the previous seven years, and sales tax receipts were up by 65 percent. Two hours by highway from San Francisco, Stockton’s leaders did not want to become just another bedroom community for commuters, and they rejected their past as a sleepy agricultural town. Flush with cash and an influx of tens of thousands of new residents seeking the more affordable housing going up on the city’s periphery, Stockton’s politicians attempted to remake their city into a destination.
Mimicking the borrowing binge in credit markets of housing developers and home buyers, Stockton’s government issued several major series of bonds to finance what was the most ambitious downtown redevelopment scheme in recent California history. Seven bond issues in the 2000s put Stockton deep in debt to build a downtown arena, a minor league ballpark, a marina, to purchase an eight-story office building to serve as the new city hall, and to build a massive parking garage nearby. And Stockton added to this debt with a pension obligation bond issue that was intended to forward fund the city’s retirement system with $124 million, and to free up cash for other projects.
When the economy crashed in 2008, Stockton became the basement floor to which other distressed California municipalities could look and say, ‘at least we’re not down there.’ Stockton’s lawyers frankly described the crisis in their bankruptcy memo:
“The Great Recession hit Stockton hard. Housing prices plunged, causing property tax revenues to fall, and unemployment has soared during the last five years, resulting in a decline in sales tax revenues. Meanwhile, the City’s expenses have remained the same or increased. Poor decisions, lax management, and bad luck have exacerbated the City’s financial woes.”
As Stockton’s revenues dried up, the city’s financial managers slashed virtually every service and program, including basic vital services. At first the cut to the bare minimum. Then they cut far past levels considered minimal and necessary to keep the city safe and functioning. Stockton depleted its meager reserve funds, transferred funds internally between accounts, and then extracted cuts from its workforce. Labor contracts were renegotiated, and when the city’s two largest unions refused further pay cuts, Stockton unilaterally reduced their compensation by $12.5 million. Employees were unilaterally forced to take furloughs, and then the layoffs began. Between 2008 and 2012 Stockton let go 472 employees, 25 percent of its workforce. Still deficits continued. The city shuttered a fire station. All of this happened just when Stockton needed more resources than ever to deal with a record rate of foreclosures surpassing most other cities. Still revenues declined. In 2011 and 2012 Stockton entirely canceled repair and replacement projects meant to keep city infrastructure and vehicles in working order. The city was allowed to crumble.
All through the carnage of one of the largest municipal financial disasters in American history Stockton continued to make payments on its debt. But in March of 2012, after forcing city workers and residents to shoulder spending reductions, the city finally defaulted on $2 million in bond payments. Three months later Stockton filed a petition for bankruptcy.
Stockton’s bankruptcy process, boiled down to its essentials, is an effort to impose a shared pain among the city’s creditors who are owed hundreds of millions. Some of Stockton’s creditors are contractors that are owed pay for construction projects, or goods and services already provided. Others are workers owed pay and benefits for labor already provided. The other big category of creditors includes financial investors who loaned Stockton capital during the 2000s boom.
Although many of Stockton’s financial lenders gave the municipality money understanding fully that their deal with the city was a speculative investment that carried risks, they now are arguing that the compensation owed to current and former city employees should be cut in order to increase the value of their debt claims on the Stockton. In other words, the financial lenders are arguing that the risk they assumed when they bought Stockton’s bonds should be retroactively transferred to the city’s employees in the form of cuts to their pensions.
Franklin Advisors, Inc., part of the Franklin Resources group, better known as Franklin Templeton Investments, a San Mateo-based financial company that controls about $900 billion in assets, has been most aggressive in pushing this argument. Lawyers representing Franklin Advisers are arguing that U.S. federal bankruptcy laws trump California’s law that says pensions administered by CalPERS cannot be reduced through municipal bankruptcy. If they win, Franklin Advisers will reduce their losses by forcing CalPERS, the administrator of many of the city’s retired workers’ pensions, to pay the costs of some of their losses. This cost ultimately falls on the 1.6 million public employees who collect, or someday will collect a CalPERS pension.
Franklin Advisers manages several mutual funds which purchased Stockton’s bonds as speculative investments. If you read the bond prospectuses Stockton provided to investors like Franklin Advisers, there’s extensive disclosure of the various risks including potential default on interest payments and even loss of principal. For example, the disclosure statements for Stockton’s 2007 Pension Obligation Bonds included six pages warning investors about various risk factors that could reduce returns or even wipe out their investment. Redevelopment bonds issued by Stockton in 2006 included the warning that a drop in city revenues could lead to losses for investors. All of Stockton’s borrowing from the capital markets came with these boilerplate warnings.
Furthermore, if you read through the prospectuses that Franklin Advisers provides for investors in its mutual funds, the riskiness of investing in municipal bonds of the quality they aimed for is obvious. “You could lose money by investing in the Fund,” explains Franklin Advisers to its clients. “An issuer of debt securities [like Stockton] may fail to make interest payments and repay principal when due, in whole or in part. Changes in an issuer’s financial strength or in a security’s credit rating may affect a security’s value.” It really couldn’t be clearer than that. Well, maybe it can. Franklin Adviser’s California High Yield Municipal Fund also warns investors that:
“Because the Fund invests predominantly in California municipal securities, events in California are likely to affect the Fund’s investments and its performance. These events may include economic or political policy changes, tax base erosion, state constitutional limits on tax increases, budget deficits and other financial difficulties, and changes in the credit ratings assigned to municipal issuers of California.”
Even so, Franklin Advisers is hoping to recoup some losses that it knew were possible when it purchased Stockton’s bonds.
If Franklin Advisers succeeds, who specifically will benefit? First of all, Franklin Resources benefits, as do financial companies like it. If it can establish the precedent that municipalities must cut pensions in order to pay back bondholders, then the value of many of the bonds of distressed municipalities owned by Franklin will increase in value.
So who is Franklin Resources?
The real force behind Franklin Resources is the Johnson family, a clan of billionaires who inherited their wealth from Rupert Johnson, Sr., the company’s founder. In 1973 Rupert Sr. moved Frankling Resources from Wall Street to San Mateo, California. The company grew over the next four decades to become one of the largest institutional managers in the world. And Franklin Resources’ ownership remained rather closely held. Although it has 631 million shares of outstanding stock, members of the Johnson family still control close to 230 million shares, 36 percent.
The Johnsons are billionaires. Rupert Johnson, Jr., and Charles B. Johnson (who I’ve mentioned before on this blog), brothers, both own over 100 million shares in their father’s company. Charles B’s children, Charles E. Johnson, Gregory Johnson, and Jennifer Johnson all own slices of the company.
Ironically CalPERS itself owns over 467,000 shares of Franklin Resources, worth about $63 million. But that’s a mere 0.1% of Franklin Resources total market capitalization, and an even more insignificant sum, two hundredths of one percent, of CalPERS total assets under management. So CalPERS and its retirees gain nothing from their little stake in Franklin.
The investors in Franklin Resources who would benefit from a win in court against CalPERS and Stockton would include the wealthy individuals who own shares in Franklin’s municipal bond mutual funds. Municipal bonds have always been a preferred investment of wealthy households because of their federal tax exemption. Wealthy California investors have the added incentive to buy into funds like Franklin Advisers’ California High Yield Municipal Fund because income from it (which flows from the interest payments that Stockton and other cities pay) is exempt from California’s relatively high state income tax. The after tax value of tax-exempt municipal securities to wealthy individuals and couples in the top federal and state tax brackets is often more than double the value of what’s available in the corporate bond market, and the risk of default is generally less. Now it would seem Franklin hopes to reduce that risk to its wealthy clients even further.
(Darwin Bond-Graham is a sociologist and investigative journalist. He is a contributing editor to Counterpunch. His writing appears in the East Bay Express, Village Voice, LA Weekly and other newspapers. He blogs about the political economy of California at http://darwinbondgraham.wordpress.com/)
THE MYTHS OF BIG CORPORATE CAPITALISM
Where's the Competition?
by Ralph Nader
Large corporate capitalism is a breed apart from smaller scale capitalism. The former can often avoid marketplace verdicts through corporate welfare, strip owner-shareholders of power over the top company bosses and offload the cost of their pollution, tax escapes and other “externalities” onto the backs of innocent people.
Always evolving to evade the theoretically touted disciplines of market competition, efficiency and productivity, corporate capitalism has been an innovative machine for oppression.
Take productive use of capital and its corollary that government wastes money. Apple Inc. is spending $130 billion of its retained profits on a capital return program, $90 billion of which it will use to repurchase its own stock through 2015. Apple executives do this to avoid paying dividends to shareholders and instead strive to prop up the stock price and the value of the bosses’ lucrative stock options. The problem is that the surveys about the impact of stock buybacks show they often do nothing or very little to increase shareholder value over the long run. But they do take money away from research and development. And consumer prices rarely, if ever, drop because of stock buybacks.
Apple’s recent iPhone is produced by 300,000 low-paid Chinese workers employed by the Foxconn Technology Group. They are lucky to be paid $2 per hour for their long work weeks. It would take $5.2 billion a year to pay these Chinese iPhone workers about $10 per hour.
If the $130 billion from Apple’s capital return program was put into a foundation, it could pay out, at 4% interest, $5.2 billion year after year. Compare $130 billion of “dead money” to the $1 billion in “live money” Tesla Motors has spent on research and development to produce its revolutionary electric cars.
Forget marketplace competition when it comes to the abuse of the monopoly patent system for medicines, steeped in taxpayer-funded basic research, and its obsolete rationale for encouraging innovation. Welcome to the $1,000 pill – yes the price of Gilead Sciences latest drug, Sovaldi, which is used to treat hepatitis C, a liver-destroying virus. It is said to have fewer side effects and a higher cure rate than its counterparts. Taken daily at a cost of $1,000 a pill, the twelve-week treatment that is recommended for most patients costs $84,000 and a twenty-four week course of treatment for the hard-to-treat strain costs or $168,000.
Use of this drug is beginning to break the budgets of the insurance company payers. Representatives from Doctors Without Borders has said that a twelve-week course of treatment should cost no more than $500. Gilead did not sweat out the research and development of this drug. Gilead simply bought Pharmasset – the company with the patent on this drug. Not surprisingly, Gilead stock has surged upward, oblivious to surging public criticism.
Some overseas countries are not so submissive to the “pay or die” corporate edict. The nonprofit group I-MAK (Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge) has filed a challenge to the patent, claiming that Sovaldi is based on “old science” with “a known compound,” thereby not meeting India’s stringent requirements for patentability.
Additionally, economist Jamie Love has developed an alternative to such “pay or die” patent monopoly prices while keeping rewards for true innovations (http://www.keionline.org/).
Another example of corporate greed and waste is the astounding story of the White House trying to procure the replacement of is aging presidential helicopter fleet, which further undermines the myth that big corporations are more efficient than government. Under the George W. Bush administration, the Navy put in an order for 23 new helicopters from AgustaWestland, working with Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin. The price in 2005 was to be $4.2 billion. Three years later the price of the contract zoomed to $11.2 billion or $400 million per helicopter (about the price of an Air Force One 747).
Congress’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Air Force criticized the contractors and their subcontracting practices. As is usual, Lockheed complained that the cost overruns were due to government modifications.
In June 2009, the Navy terminated the contract after spending $4.4 billion and taking delivery of only nine of these (VH-71) helicopters. By December 2009, the White House and the Department of Defense officials washed their hands of this debacle. By that time, the projected cost had risen to $13 billion. In total, the bungled enterprise wasted $3.2 billion and this presidential procurement effort has to start all over again.
By comparison, $3.2 billion is greater than the combined budgets of Americorps, Public Broadcasting, public housing (Choice Neighborhoods), the Arts (NEA), the Humanities (NEH), the Peace Corps and the worker safety programs of OSHA.
Imagine if there was similar squandering of those budgets: there would be indignation roaring from Congress! When it comes to the defense industry, well that’s just business as usual, complete with the golden handshakes with the Pentagon for the almost certain cost over-runs.
Big corporations should not be allowed the myths of competitive, productive, efficient capitalism – unless they can prove it.
(Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.)
SPIRITUAL DIRECT ACTION
Greetings of extreme love and blissful peace, In view of the fact that I am not receiving any significant responses from the living in postmodern America at this time, in response to my request for solidarity to continue my radical environmental/peace and justice activism, I hereby invite you to form a spiritual direct action group with me. I would like to be in the New York City--Washington D.C. region once again, and I need a place to go to. Beyond that, I propose that we create a spiritually conscious direct action group, to go beyond the history that we are already a part of, and to continue to be incredible in these socio-political and environmentally failing times. There is an alternative to accepting a boring, dumb, failed global materialistic civilization, and a pointless life as well. Please assist me in getting based in the NYC-D.C. region, and let's do the spiritually based direct action which we are called to perform.
This is exciting, isn't it?
* * *
Sizzling hot spiritual greetings of extreme love and bliss, I am inviting you to form with me a spiritual direct action group. This is absolutely, positively an idea whose time has come. I am ready to leave New Orleans, where the anarchist housing rights organizer "Bork" no longer requires my assistance..."Bork" is much, much better and will continue with her effort to find and relocate to an assisted livng situation in Arlington, VA, (which is near D.C., for her to remain socio-politically active); if you can be helpful with this, please telephone her at (504) 302-9951. Otherwise, I am ready to leave NOLA. I want to go to the New York City-Washington D.C. area and I need a place to go to there initially. I am recommending: circumambulating areas of nescience and doing spiritual rituals, performing a radical environmental climate theater piece on a flat bed truck and filming it, and for the longer haul, bringing in our collective creativity, i.e. every activist tool in the toolbox...think globally...act locally...every day and night. Let's get serious, y'all...time is running out on this Kali Yuga postmodern civilization! I believe that we have a spiritual calling to intervene in history. If you also believe this, please contact me. I love you all madly.
Craig Louis Stehr Telephone messages c/o Bork: (504) 302-9951 Permanent email address: CraigStehr@pamho.net Snail mail: 333 Socrates Street, New Orleans, LA 70114 Blog: http://craiglstehr.blogspot.com