I’m just having a look at what Obama has been up to in his first weeks at the White House and I have to say folks that it’s all looking rather positive.
I know the world is expecting great things from this man but the messianic glorification seems to be settling down to a more realistic adoration because everybody knows he’s not a living saint or a black Superhero. He’s a man, a person. A good person. But he’s no god and he certainly doesn’t possess any supernatural powers and let’s be honest, it would take a humongous dose of magic to straighten out this world.
Anyway, early days I know but he has got off to a good start and there are three issues that I want to talk about:
#First off, he has set a deadline for closing Guantanamo and has banned inhumane interrogation methods. This is a good thing. A-very-good-thing. It’s been seven years since those first War on Terror detainees were sent to Guantanamo Bay. Seven years of torture without charge or fair trial. Seven years of dodgy waterboarded confessions. Seven years of injustice. For sure it must be difficult to get the right balance between liberty and security and I’m glad it’s not me who is responsible for trying to achieve this but hell, most people should be able to recognise that detaining and torturing non-national terror suspects for seven years without charging them with any crime is not really conducive to a free and fair and truly democratic world. It’s actually more likely to seriously compromise our security and increase fundamentalism.
So it will be a difficult process. The “fall-out” from George Bush’s War on Terror is widespread. Already they’re asking . . . where will all these ex-detainees go? Who will take them in? What about all the detainees in other places? Lot’s of dilemma’s for Obama and it’s not going to be pretty but it has to be done. We have to start somewhere and other countries ought to support him. The announcement to close the place is undoubtedly a victory for freedom and human rights. And crucially, I think/hope it will cement the first few stones together in the bridge-building process between the Middle East and the West. More specifically, I’m not aware of any moves he has made yet concerning Israel/Palestine conundrum but I can’t help feeling that time is running out fast.
I do hope that the Jewish lobby doesn’t ‘get to him’.
#The next good thing that he’s done is to begin the reversal of Bush’s climate change policies and to pledge all kinds of green policies. He very wisely said, that the creation of a new energy economy would create millions of jobs . . .
“It will put 460,000 Americans to work with clean-energy investments and double the capacity to generate alternative energy over the next three years,” he said of measures in his administration’s economic recovery plan, which is currently before Congress.
“It will lay down 3,000 miles of transmission lines to deliver this energy to every corner of our country. It will save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75 per cent of federal buildings more efficient. And it will save working families hundreds of dollars on their energy bills by weatherizing two million homes.
It’s all good stuff.
I haven’t, by the way, missed the fact that he brought up the dirty ‘N‘ word during his election campaign . . . “we will invest in research and development of every form of alternative energy solar, wind, bio fuels, we’ll find safer ways to use nuclear power and store nuclear waste” . . . but he does say he will find safer ways to use and store it and I’m not going to remain opposed to nuclear if it’s 100% safe. I’m not optimistic though because I’m sure we’re a long way from finding a totally safe way of using nuclear power. He also mentions coal in that same mouthful but it doesn’t fit in with my positive take so I’ll deal with him about that another time.
Anyway, he is going to make new rules for the auto-industry which will force the manufacturers to produce more fuel-efficient, less polluting cars and he is going to reverse the Bush administration’s decision to deny California the authority to set limits on automobile greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course the auto-industry will fight to protect their interests, using all kinds of emotional appeals such as claiming that the industry will die and jobs will be lost etc. but Obama has already promised to help the struggling car industry with $33bn loans and if they use their imagination, jobs shouldn’t be lost, they should be re-routed into green car production.
I do hope that the auto-lobby doesn’t ‘get to him’.
#And the third good thing that he’s done is to courageously stand up to the pharmaceutical industry. Anybody who knows me well will know that I hold a deep disdain for the large pharmaceuticals so this is a very-good-thing-indeed . .
An article in today’s Independent states that . . . The European Commission said that the large pharma’s are blocking the entry of new, cheaper drugs on to the market and that this cost EU health care providers, including the National Health Service, an estimated €3bn between 2000 and 2007
And Obama has said . . . “We will lower drug costs by allowing the importation of safe medicines from other developed countries, increasing the use of generic drugs in public programmes and taking on drug companies that block cheaper generic medicines from the market.”
As the Indy article states, the generics firms are viewed as parasitic by the drug giants because the giants do all the funding and research in order to produce our over-priced medicines and the generics come along, fight their patents and then produce the same drugs for a fraction of the cost. But the patents are often hard to conquer and we’ve all heard heart-breaking stories of Health Care providers not being able to afford certain life-saving drugs because the large pharmaceuticals monopolise the drug market and refuse to allow competitive price wars. Anyway, whether they break the patents or not, it’s arguable as to how many drugs the large pharma’s actually create thus truly own . Writer John Le Carre has done the research and says in his brilliant article, In Place of Nations, (and I recommend you read it) that . . .
Big Pharma did not invent these lifesaving drugs that they have patented and arbitrarily overpriced, incidentally. Anti-retrovirals were for the most part discovered by publicly funded US research projects into other diseases, and only later entrusted to pharmaceutical companies for marketing and exploitation. Once the pharmas had the patent, they charged whatever they thought an AIDS-desperate Western market would stand: $12,000 to $15,000 a year for compounds that cost a few hundred to run up. Thus a price tag was attached, and the Western world, by and large, fell for it. Nobody said it was a massive confidence trick. Nobody remarked that, while Africa has 80 percent of the world’s AIDS patients, it comprises 1 percent of Big Pharma’s market.
John Le Carre is justifiably critical of “Big Pharma” and as you will find from the article, he did some research into the industry when he was writing his brilliant and very moving book, The Constant Gardener and in his own chilling words he said . . . As my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realise that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard.
We live in a drug-dependent world but I have my suspicions that we don’t need many of the drugs that are prescribed to us. Our GP’s and our consultants are seduced by the pharma’s. They receive “incentives” from drug companies pushing their drugs that will apparently improve our ailments. They prey on our vulnerability . . . and our guilt. If we don’t allow our children to be loaded up with toxic inoculations throughout their childhood then we are judged as bad, uncaring parents. If we refuse to drown our kids in Calpol then clearly we don’t care that they are in pain. And how is it that our stressed-out, exhausted and harrassed mothers have come to depend on that little prozac pill to get them through the day? I’m not suggesting that drugs aren’t needed at all. Indeed, they have saved many, many lives. But we we put all our trust in the medicines and the professionals involved without question. We should not forget that the pharmaceutical industry is lucrative and it depends on us to depend on its products. It doesn’t want us to seek alternative remedies or natural pain-relief. No, that’s not where it makes its money. It doesn’t want us to know that good health depends more on ethical social circumstances, decent nutrition, exercise and a non-toxic environment than it does on manufactured drugs. The pharmaceutical industry wants us to obediently swallow its pills and ask no questions.
Anyway, I’m going on for way too long so yes, maximum respect to John Le Carre. I’ve just ordered his latest book, A Most Wanted Man.
And maximum respect to Obama for tackling Big Pharma. It won’t be easy. The industry will make all kinds of false moral justifications and will fight hard to protect their profits but all too often profit does not put people first and this has to change.
I do hope that the pharmaceutical lobby doesn’t ‘get to him’.