I'll Be in the Bathtub
There's nothing "creeping" about this latest step towards American fascism:
WASHINGTON - By creating a federal agency shielded from public scrutiny, some lawmakers think they can speed the development and testing of new drugs and vaccines needed to respond to a bioterrorist attack or super-flu pandemic.
The proposed Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, or BARDA, would be exempt from long-standing open records and meetings laws that apply to most government departments, according to legislation approved Oct. 18 by the Senate health committee.
Those exemptions would streamline the development process, safeguard national security and protect the proprietary interests of drug companies, say Republican backers of the bill. The legislation also proposes giving manufacturers immunity from liability in exchange for their participation in the public-private effort.
"We must ensure the federal government acts as a partner with the private sector, providing the incentives and protections necessary to bring more and better drugs and vaccines to market faster," Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said when the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved the bill.
The agency would provide the funding for development of treatments and vaccines to protect the United States from natural pandemics as well as chemical, biological and radiological agents.
But it is the secrecy and immunity provisions of the legislation that have alarmed patient rights and open government advocates. The agency would be exempt from the Freedom of Information and Federal Advisory Committee acts, both considered crucial for monitoring government accountability.
"There is no other agency that I am aware of where the agency is totally exempt either from FOIA or FACA," said Pete Weitzel, coordinator of the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government. The coalition is an alliance of journalism groups, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors and Associated Press Managing Editors, that wrote to lawmakers seeking amendments to the bill. "That is a cause for major concern and should raise major policy concerns," Weitzel said.
Frist is all over this, I'm sure. But leaving aside the idea that anything with his name attached is automatically evil, let's think about this for a minute. Can you say "Tuskagee experiments?" I know you can. They're not even trying anymore, and have completely stopped pretending they care about good government. it's government for, by and to increase the profits of the corporation, and nothing else.
What caught my attention is the little snippet further down the article:
The agency would improve on Project BioShield, a barely two-year-old program also meant to encourage production of vaccines and drugs, Heye said.
Project Bioshield is an item in the budget, upon which I recently posted. Bush signed it into law two years ago, supposedly to help with the production of drugs needed to combat a biological attack. When the bill was winding its way through congress, it seems the ever excellent Mr. Levin (D-MI) wondered if in fact it was little more than a boondoggle for drug manufacturers. Seems he had an issue with no-bid contracts.
When I'm really paranoid, I recall the PNAC document:
Thus, anybody who's part of a group with a shared genetic profile may be at risk in the future, suggest the authors of The Project for a New American Century's (PNAC) report titled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century."
The report notes that, "Much has been written in recent years about the need to transform the conventional armed forces of the United States to take advantage of the 'revolution in military affairs....'" They point out that our military requires a dramatic transformation, lest we lose our ability to fight future, unconventional wars. Some may be fought in cyberspace, others underwater or in outer space. And some even within our own bodies.
Consider what would happen if there was a virus or bacteria that only infected a particular type of person, killing, disabling, or sterilizing only those of a particular genetic profile. Consider the political leverage a nation would have if they could credibly threaten the extinction of all people worldwide with almond-shaped eyes, or the sterilization of everybody with a gene that tracks them back to a common ancestor or region.
Three years ago, Wolfowitz, Kristol, and their colleagues suggested this is something the Pentagon should be thinking about. Not just germ warfare, but gene warfare.
And it's not limited just to warfare: Imagine how genetic terraforming could replace diplomacy, could even render the United Nations irrelevant if entire ethnic groups were wiped out or could be controlled by the threat of extinction. Or how it could change the face of politics if an organism got loose that killed off all the people of a particular minority who tend to vote for a particular political party.
Genetically targeted weapons could change world politics forever, according to PNAC.
"And," their report notes, "advanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool."
So, where was I? Oh, that's right: a bill making its way to passing in Congress that would dole out huge no-bid contracts to drug makers and science R&D departments headed up by Bush's friends, shielding them from public oversight and protecting them from litigation in cases of wrongdoing and cloaking them in an unassailable gown of Patriotism and thus convincing people that they must be 'doing good,' directed by people who think that it's a good thing for a nation to have genetically specific biological weapons.
Anyway, there's a really nice tub of bathwater and a new CQ Yarbro book waiting for me. There are days when I really can't take this.