Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Duck and cover--and kiss your sweet ass goodbye

Chemcraft Atomic 2
Originally uploaded by Todd Ehlers.
Although it now has some hefty competition, CBS's 60 Minutes is still, to my mind, the best of the TV newsmagazines. Maybe one of the reasons I don't watch it too often anymore is that I typically come away from the program ranting and muttering to myself over some horrible injustice and/or outrage that Morley Safer and company have unearthed. Exactly what do I do with all this frustration and fury other than watch my blood pressure rising?

But this past Sunday's segment--entitled "The Worst Case Scenario"--left me with more than a feeling of impotent rage. It gave me a rare impetus to want to do more than just kvetch to myself. I think a quote from the segment's intro by Ed Bradley might be appropriate here, so here goes:

We can no longer ignore the worst-case scenario of a nuclear terrorist attack on an American city. Osama bin Laden has made it clear he wants to obtain nuclear weapons and use them against us.

The 9/11 Commission considers such an attack the No. 1 threat today, not because it is the most likely disaster scenario, but because it would be the most devastating. The chairman of the 9/11 Commission even says he expects to see such an attack on an American city in his lifetime.

Hundreds of thousands of people could die in a nuclear attack, but hundreds of thousands of others could be saved. That's because the Pentagon--after decades of searching--believes it has found a drug to treat radiation exposure. Why isn't that drug available?

Well, I have an answer to that. It seems to have a lot to do with one Stewart Simonson. He's the Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness in the Department of Health and Human Services. Rather than make a radiation drug available to a large number of potential victims in major cities, Simonson seems to think that in the event of a nuclear attack, victims bleeding to death can simply be treated in hospitals.

Does any of this sound sickeningly familiar to you all? Can you say "Katrina," "FEMA," and "Michael Brown?"

In case the situation isn't crystal clear, I'll quote a Fox piece from February 2nd for emphasis:

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said Thursday that the Al Qaeda terror nework remains the "top concern" of the U.S. intelligence community, followed closely by the nuclear activities of Iran and North Korea....

"Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missles in the Middle East," Negroponte said.

Meanwhile, he said that North Korea's assertions that it has nuclear weapons are "probably true."

Back in 1951, a civil defense film called Duck and Cover, produced in cooperation with the Federal Civil Defense Administration, was released showing schoolchildren what to do in case of an atomic attack. In it, a cartoon character named Bert the Turtle was employed to demonstrate to children how to "duck and cover" if they see a flash in the sky indicating that the Soviet Union has just delivered us a little gift to remember them by.

Looking at this film now (you can view it here), it seems hopelessly corny, quaint, and naive.

In the film, kids are told that there are two possible nuke attacks--one with prior warning, and one without. In case of the latter, when one sees a very blinding light, one should try to quickly get to the relative safety of the side of a building or even a street curb, sort of roll up into a ball covering your face and back of your neck, and "stay covered until the danger is over." This will prevent that pesky radiation burn, which is "worse than a terrible sunburn." If possible, cover yourself with a coat and your hand so as not to be burned--even a thin cloth or a newspaper.

To my mind, Simonson--"a Republican political appointee" and former "lawyer for Amtrak"-- is the Bert the Turtle for the new millenium. Instead of merely addressing guileless children, his message to every man, woman and child in our country is to crawl to the nearest hospital--and whether or not you make it there, it's pretty damn certain you'll be kissing your barbequed ass goodbye either way, so may as well take your time. (Remember how effective the hospital service was during Katrina? Imagine what it might be like during a nuclear holocaust).

Here's the 60 Minutes story in a nutshell. (Note: all quoted material unless otherwise noted is from the 60 Minutes transcript).

Hollis-Eden, a "small biotech company in San Diego" which had developed a drug which could serve as a "possible treatment for radiation sickness," was approached by the military in the summer of 2001. According to Bob Marsella, VP of the company, they were told during this visit that "we've been testing your drug and we've been looking for a drug like this for 40 years.'"

Two weeks after 9/11, the military came again and said they'd be interested in developing the drug for civilians as well as troops.

Marsella and his boss, Richard Hollis, did the numbers and realized that the potential market for their product could be huge--in the millions of units. They set about "circulating in Washington" trying to get investors in Washington who would get behind the drug.

But it was no go until President Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech. In it, he announced a new initiative.

'Project Bioshield' provided nearly 6 billion to create a biodefense industry. The program gave drug companies a powerful incentive to come up with new drugs to be used in the event of terrorist attacks. For the first time, there would be a guaranteed market for drugs if they tested successfully. It was the assurance Hollis-Eden had been waiting for....

With the prospect of a huge market, investors put money in the company and Hollis-Eden's stock soared from $5 to $35 a share....

Over the next three years, Hollis-Eden spent more than $100 million, with the expectation that the government would buy millions of doses.

And the beauty part? The new drug, Neumune, could actually be self-administered in the event of a nuclear attack.

So how does Simonson the Turtle--the man who oversees Project Bioshield-- shine in? Well, I'll tell you how. This past September, "the Department of Health & Human Services surprised everyone by announcing that it would commit to purchase a radiation drug from whichever company had the best product, but only 100,000 doses." Hollis-Eden's stock, needless to say, quickly plummeted.

"Assistant Secretary Simonson has been under fire for committing nearly a billion dollars to acquire a controversial new anthrax vaccine, but he has been given credit for successfully stockpiling drugs for smallpox."

Representative Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who chairs the Committee that oversees Project Bioshield, feels that Simonson is "over his head" regarding this issue. Comparing him to Michael Brown, he observes that he has exhibited "the same kind of arrogance, a lack of expertise. This is a serious job at this point, and I think we need to have professionals filling it, not political appointees." As a matter of fact, Davis, who generally supports the Administration, called for the removal of Simonson from Bioshield in this 60 Minutes story.

It may come as a shock to learn that Simonson declined a request for an interview, but sent his deputy, Dr. William Raub, to be grilled by Ed Bradley. Here's a little of the back and forth, just for a goof:

Bradley: Why did the government decide to buy only 100,000 doses to treat acute radiation syndrome?


Raub: Well this is the place to start and we don't see 100,000 as the end, we see 100,000 as the beginning.


Bradley: So if you order 100,000 and there's a nuclear explosion...when do you get the rest of them?


Raub: Again, we take this a step at a time. First off, we need agents that we can be sure will work.


The Pentagon continues to endorse the drug. Meanwhile, Simonson "wrote a letter to congress empasizing that nuclear victims bleeding to death could be treated in hospitals."

In response to the question concerning whether he thought hospitals would be able to respond adquately to such an event, Raub stated, in part: "By no means would there be the ability to treat all of it, and therefore that's what makes it a catastrophe."


In response to Bradley's information from a top hematologist who estimated that perhaps dozens of people could be treated, rather than hundreds of thousands, Raub said: "But no one has ever claimed a perfect response here."


Bradley: Do you imagine what it would be like to evacuate New York City?


Raub: ...this is a catastrophe and I think people would do their very best on under those circumstances.


For those of you who did not see the show, all I can do is note the fear and loathing I felt when 60 Minutes offered a clip of Simonson in action. The look on his irritated, arrogant face filled me with the same sort of fury as did the clueless, befuddled mug of Michael Brown several months ago.

Perhaps Simonson has some personal strategy for surviving a nuclear attack. Maybe he'll be safely ensconsed in the "shell" of some government bunker, away from the flying debris and radiation. Maybe he has no wife or children to worry about. Perhaps he lives down the block from a hospital and plans to be the first on line for "treatment."

But for the rest of us, I think duck and cover and crawl to the hospital -- especially if there's a drug that could save countless lives--is not sufficient.

If anyone can offer any suggestions about if and how the average citizen might bring pressure on our Administration to oust this smug, clueless little turtle of a man, I'd appreciate it.


At 4:01 PM, Blogger jane said...

we're screwed

At 4:50 AM, Blogger Walker said...

Bin Laden would not allow such an attack and I will tell you why I think this.
Itwould be the end of him and war on Islam would not be a possibility but a cruel and bloody fact.
He can get more out of THE THREAT of such an attack than he would, if actually did it.
The govt of the world are spending heaps of money because of terrorism.
All they need to do is cause a explossion here or there to keep the fear real and that does it.
Most of these terrrists get their money from legitimay businesses based in the very countries they attack and I bet they don't spend all the money the make on ferilizer.
Terrorism has become big business for both sides.
They probably vacation withsome of the leaders of the world.

I bet they have enough vaccine to save all the useless poliicians and their families.
Politicians are full of hot air the want to look like the care, look like they are doing something for us and formost, to progress their own agenda which is to get more votes and power to make more money.
What I can't figure is why doesn't the company just put it out on the market. I am sure the public would be more than happy to cough up the money to save their sizzling ass if there is a nuclear dissaster. And lets face it, with all the accidents happening , there are other ways of getting radiation poisoning besides a bomb exploding.

At 11:04 AM, Blogger jessie said...

i think walker is right, osama wouldn't waste his time on that when he can hold us in a grip of fear from his threats. we all know what he is capable of, seeing the catastrophe of 9/11, and this reality of fear he has brought to our nation is all he needs, with a few reminders here and there. we used to be a nation that would watch tv and see the horrors around the globe and think jeeze i am glad we dont have to worry about that. we were smug and ignorant people, 9/11 humbled us and made us realize that terrorism is real, and is a threat, even to us.
i think our real threat here is iran and korea. they have no agenda there, just to say dont mind our business and we wont blow you up, so says korea. that statement(in a nutshell) humbled our arrogant president to reconsider the options! iran seeing this happen shows the same. yet these are the ones we need to worry about.
this leaves us looking to our incompetent administration for help and answers. the 100,000 doses of the medicine is for those of importance! they will take the medecine and go hide in bunkers somewhere while the rest of humanity is left to suffer. this is well known. they have "hide outs all across the nation! they will not open their doors to us, just to those of importance.
they think we're a simple minded people and feed us their lies and crap in hopes we believe them but all the while they have us screwed!

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Walker said...

Justbefore I get ready to hop on a plane for the next 30 some hours I thought I would finish my comment. I seem to forgot o adddress 2 things.
I think ( thanks to Jessie for jogging my brain cells which are preoccupied with "I dont want to leave NZ") Korea is not a threat. They are to needy and starving. I see Korea in the near future unifing with the south and becoming a whole country again.
They have been using nuclear weopons to get attention and help.
Iran is a problem, but are radical as they are, I think the only country the are a real danger to is Isreal but knowing that the States will retaliate as they did in Iraq, they will hold back.
Nuclear weopons have become a tool of mass fear rather tham mass destuction.
If there ever is a threat of nuclear war, it wont be on U.S. soil and not involving them as well.
If there is a war it will be between India and Pakastan.
The threat there is the greatest because that's where the stupidest people live.
These 2 countries with the starving people that they have have been developingv weopons rather than food to feed their kids and relying of the rest of the world for help.
I am sure when they look at their famine problems they say" don't worry about it. UNICEF will feed them. Let's build a bomb"
The biggest threat to westrn countries is us. We are driving ourselves into a state of panic and are always on gaurd. The terrorists have us jumping at every car back fireing.
It's time we lay back and relaxed and wait o see what happens.
If Something catasrophic happens and it is caused by terrorism then I think it would be time o just nuke the fuckers .
Soundsharsh doesn't it?
As my readers know I love people but most of the worlds terrorist problems stem from one region and that's the Middle East.
Being an equal opertunity and equal rights person, I say nuke the whole region. All of them. Egypt Isreal Iraq etc.
Create a new form of energy so that they can't sell their oil because this is all about money.
They want ours, we want to take theirs and all of them want the power that money brings.
If we didn't need their oil, we wouldn't need to do any dealings with them and then they could go and kill each other and we wouldn't give a rats ass.
I got to go. See you down the line Elvira :)

At 3:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might be comforting to believe terrorism operates on a rational profit making basis, built on a tacit set of rules restricting them to 'minor' atrocities only; but this is blatant denial. On what grounds can we believe such a thing? History informs us men have periodically embarked on attempts at genocide, without fear or thought of possible retribution. In all cases, it has been instigated and executed with an evangelical fervour, the perpetrators having the utmost conviction of the 'rightness' of their cause.

History if, read rightly, can enlighten us, but we should not make the mistake of thinking it also determines the future. It's folly to suppose because no terrorist or crazed individual has yet attempted to detonate an atomic device, it will never happen. The technology is there, and, unfortunately, so are zealots, idealists and mad people. These people are not in short supply and neither are their extreme beliefs a bar to technical knowhow. It's best not to get too comfortable.


At 11:54 PM, Blogger digibrill said...

Sorry I have to ditto what Don said. These people are cold and calculating. They have been insulted already by our incursions in the middle east, no matter what you think of them, and their idea of honor versus the West's idea (or rather dwindling idea) of what's right are at odds. If cartoons cause WWIII don't be surprised. There are thousands of honor killings in middle eastern nations and this is only a sign of the difference. They operate like gangs in this country in this respect. Insult me and die. Korea is desperately poor, but the rich and political are fed and others who raise a peep are stuck in concentration camps. Iran is run by crazy-ass mullahs and a president who denies the holocaust. When the much-maligned phrase "the axis of evil" arose, we didn't know how true it was going to be.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger digibrill said...

Oh yes, and we do need to petition the goverment for a redress of grievances regarding this topic of yours. Government is slow and lethargic and pathetic.


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