November 3, 2009
Tomgram: Barbara Ehrenreich, Why Your Child May Not Get a Swine Flu Shot Soon
This week, the Obama White House released a very partial record of those who had visited since January 20, 2009. This it hailed as "transparency like you've never seen it before" and as the beginning of a new White House visitor transparency policy. Unfortunately, the policy applies mainly to post-September 15th visitors and has a caveat that, in time, could prove large enough to drive a Humvee through. As the White House website puts it, all names of visitors will be released after a lag of 90-120 days, "aside from a small group of appointments that cannot be disclosed because of national security imperatives or their necessarily confidential nature (such as a visit by a possible Supreme Court nominee)."
The version of the story that hit TV screens and most newspapers had to do with William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Michael Moore, and Michael Jordan, who were on the list, but weren't actually William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Michael Moore, and Michael Jordan. Not the ones who come to your mind, anyway.
The secondary story was that Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Bill Gates were exactly the Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Bill Gates you'd imagine, and that in the last eight months a reasonable amount of star power had indeed passed through those well-guarded gates. Then there was labor leader Andrew Stern, fingered by the Wall Street Journal for his 22 visits.
And, oh yes, there were the others, too, even if they didn't really cause much of a stir. On this already limited list of visitors, for instance, Wall Street was hardly missing-in-action, nor was big oil. Visiting "the people's house" were Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, who met a mere two times with the President and once with economic advisor Lawrence Summers; James Dimon, chief executive of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., who made it in but six times, as well as Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit; Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil Corp; David O'Reilly, CEO of Chevron; Maurice Greenberg, former head of AIG; and so on, including a striking crew of lobbyists. In other words, no big deal.
Now, me, I wouldn't mind knowing whether on the unreleased visitors' lists for these last months lurked Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, or Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella (or their lobbyists), not to speak of other Big Pharma types. Did they make it to the White House, and if so, how many times? I'm curious because Barbara Ehrenreich identifies their companies as the ones screwing up the production of the swine flu vaccine, and somehow they did manage to get a modest infusion of $2 billion from the Obama administration to do a less than magnificent job of this. I wonder just what deals might have been broached with them in the people's name.
In the spirit of Ehrenreich's remarkable new book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America -- which I've recommended before -- I'd like to exhibit a little positive thinking and hope that some enterprising reporter digs up this info for the rest of us, and soon. In the meantime, do check out Ehrenreich's book (as well as the audio interview she did for TomDispatch to go with today's piece). It admittedly won't make you more optimistic, or even healthier, just a lot wiser and far more irritated. Tom
The Swine Flu Vaccine Screw-up
Optimism as a Public Health Problem
By Barbara Ehrenreich
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