AUSTIN, Texas — Do you know how to cure a chicken-killin' dog? Now, you know you cannot keep a dog that kills chickens, no matter how fine a dog it is otherwise.
Some people think you cannot break a dog that has got in the habit of killin' chickens, but my friend John Henry always claimed you could. He said the way to do it is to take one of the chickens the dog has killed and wire the thing around the dog's neck, good and strong. And leave it there until that dead chicken stinks so bad that no other dog or person will even go near that poor beast. Thing'll smell so bad the dog won't be able to stand himself. You leave it on there until the last little bit of flesh rots and falls off, and that dog won't kill chickens again.
The Bush administration is going to be wired around the neck of the American people for four more years, long enough for the stench to sicken everybody. It should cure the country of electing Republicans.
And at least Democrats won't have to clean up after him until it is real clear to everyone who made the mess.
In some circles, that will be seen as sour grapes. But in Texas, we've been losing elections to the demagogic triad of God, gays and guns long enough to be pretty cynical about how it works out. I'm sure millions of Americans voted for George W. under the honest impression that he stands for moral values — family, patriotism, faith in God. I'm sure it's the Democrats' fault that such a silly ruse is allowed to stand. What Bush actually does stand for is nicely summed up by a rather common news story that got stuck on the business pages lately.
In September, Merck & Co., the huge drug manufacturer, pulled Vioxx off the market. Vioxx was a popular pain-killing, anti-arthritis drug, but Merck said it was putting patients' safety first. A new study from the Federal Drug Administration showed high doses of Vioxx triple the risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death.
From there, the story bifurcates — it takes two directions. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa revealed that the FDA had tried to silence the author of the study, Dr. David Graham, associate director of science in the Office of Drug Safety. Grassley said the FDA first sat on Graham's study and that then he was "ostracized" and "subjected to veiled threats and intimidation."
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The Wall Street Journal followed the other fork, finding internal memos from Merck showing that company officials may have been aware of the dangers of Vioxx as long ago as 1996, including a memo apparently instructing its sales reps to "dodge" the question when doctors asked about the cardiac record of Vioxx.
In short, we have a toothless regulatory agency in the pocket of the industry it is supposed to patrol. We have an administration-wide contempt for science and plain facts. And the allegation against the folks at Merck is that they were making such enormous profits on a drug that killed people that when they knew or suspected it was killing people, they kept right on selling it. When the information that Merck had known for a long time about Vioxx and heart attacks became public, the company's stock fell by 9.6 percent.
That's the system George W. Bush stands for: where a corporation can knowingly kill people for profit and, when it finally comes out, everyone knows the penalties will be so light the company doesn't even lose a tenth of its worth. Hey, just a little bump in the road.
We sure don't want any of that terrible, burdensome government regulation to control that kind of behavior, do we? We sure don't want an FDA that listens to its own scientists and acts promptly, do we? We sure don't want anyone to sue these monster corporations, do we? I bet if it were possible to compare the odds of an American getting killed by a negligent regulatory agency and rapacious corporate behavior versus an American getting killed by a terrorist, it would turn out we need to be a lot more scared of rank greed and its enablers than we do of terrorists. And that's not counting what the corps. (pronounced corpse) steal and mess up.
So, fellow progressives, stop thinking about suicide or moving abroad. Want to feel better? Eat a sour grape, then do something immediately, now, today. Figure out what you can do to help rescue the country — join something, send a little money to some group, call somewhere and offer to volunteer, find a politician you like at the local level and start helping him or her to move up.
Think about how you can lend a hand to the amazing myriad efforts that will promptly break out to help the country recover from what it has done to itself. Now is the time. Don't mourn, organize.