AUSTIN, Texas — With the Bush administration, it's
have in mind the old carnival con game: Keep your
eye on the shell with
pea under it.
Among the many curious aspects of the
of the Dubai Ports World takeover of operations at
six major ports (and
many as 21) is this exemption from normally
routine restrictions: The
agreement does not require DP World to keep
copies of its business
on U.S. soil, which would place them within the
courts. Nor does it require the company to
designate an American
accommodate requests by the government. So
what's that about?
It makes DP World harder to sue and less
regulation. The lovely thing about the ports deal
causing such a
is that it allows us to bring attention to this fairly
which is, in fact, part of a wave of similar special
starting to turn into a flood.
Here's a lovely example of how it works:
last year, in a spectacular example of a straight
power play, Senate
Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker
Dennis Hastert pulled off
backroom legislative deal to protect
pharmaceutical companies from
The language was slipped into a Defense
Department appropriations bill
the last minute without the approval of members of
conference committee meeting on the bill.
Lots of players were outraged at the short-
legislative process. "It is a travesty," said Thomas
Mann of The
Institution. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., who had
specifically checked to
sure the language was not included, was enraged,
calling Frist and
"a couple of musclemen in Congress who think
they have the right to
everybody else that they have to do their bidding."
Rep. Dan Burton
succinctly, "It sucks."
The way this was done was outrageous, but
so is what it
Frist has received over $270,000 in contributions
from the drug
has long advocated liability protection for vaccine
makers. As the
News Service reports, the provision allows the
secretary of health and
services to issue a declaration of a public health
emergency, or threat
an emergency, or declaration of "credible risk" of
an emergency in the
future, thereby protecting the industry against
lawsuits involving the
manufacture, testing, development, distribution,
administration or use
vaccines or other drugs.
In order to prove injury from a drug, a person
prove "willful misconduct," not just actual harm.
But this putrid performance is part of a much
protect corporations from the consequences of the
damage they cause.
Angeles Times reports:
- "The highway safety agency ... is backing
efforts to stop California and other states from
- "The Justice Department helped industry
pollution-control rule in Southern California that
would have required
cleaner-running buses, garbage trucks and other
- "The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the
repeatedly sided with national banks to fend off
protection laws passed by California, New York
and other states."
- "The Food and Drug Administration
labels should give pharmaceutical firms broad
immunity from most types
Because of repeated problems with roof-
crush incidents that
crippled drivers in rollover accidents, the National
Administration at last proposed a beefed-up safety
standard for car
roofs — but the proposal also provides legal protection for
future roof-crush lawsuits. So your car roof may be
less liable to
during a rollover, but if it does and leaves you
paraplegic, but you
be able to sue.
Sometimes I'm not sure what planet these
people live on — they
must think the editorial page of The Wall Street
Gee, would a fine, upstanding American
a product that would hurt someone? Knowingly?
Would they ever lie to
it up after they find out about the problem and
whatever it is until finally forced to stop? Well,
would they do that
was really, really profitable? Could that happen in
our great nation?
The trouble with the people who write The
editorial page is that they never read their own
newspaper, which still
the best job of business reporting anywhere.
Business interests have
splendid job of vilifying trial lawyers and
pretending the only people
by limiting the right to sue are trial lawyers.
Look, the trial lawyer is not the one in a
roof-crush rollover leaves someone paraplegic. Do
you drive a car?
Molly Ivins is the former editor of the liberal monthly The Texas Observer. She is the bestselling author of several books including Who Let the Dogs In?
© 2006 Working Assets