Friday, August 01, 2014


It is Scission Prison Friday and today we take a listen to Jerome White-Bay.  Never heard of him?  You aren't alone.  The thing is you should hear of him.

Jerome White-Bey is an anarchist prisoner who started the Missouri Prison Labor Union. Since the founding of the MPLU, Jerome has been subject to administrative harassment and retaliation.

The Missouri Prison Labor Union is an anarchist driven prison initiative that was organized by prisoners and supporters in the hope of bettering the living and working conditions in the State of Missouri prison system. One of their goals is to establish minimum wages for prisoners and to stop all prison abuse. The MPLU is an organization that fights against oppression, repression, torture, brutality, rape, corruption and exploitation of prisoners both male and female. In this struggle they seek to regain their human dignity.

That, I admit, is about all I knew about Jerome White-Bey until today.

The first item below, is an  interview  from Prison Books Collective.  The second contains two short pieces written by Jerome White-Bey from Brighton Anarchist Black Cross.  Finally, I am adding a longer piece from Confluence in 2004 which is an account by White-Bey of "The Road to Prison."

Interview with revolutionary anarchist prisoner Jerome White-Bey

JULY 25, 2014
When compiling a prisoner letter writing list of bios and addresses, I came across the name “Jerome White-Bey” and couldn’t find any information about him aside from his name, prison # and address, and a one sentence mention of him founding the Missouri Prison Labor Union. After exchanging a few letters, he agreed to an interview with me with the intention of it being published, and the link below is where that interview can be located. This site was also made with the intention of publishing other interviews of those currently and previously incarcerated whose cases I feel are underrepresented in the US anarchist movement.

Jerome White-Bey 2014 (Missouri Prison Labor Union)

(A): I’m glad you said you’d be interested in doing an interview. I guess, let’s start with background: How old are you, what was growing up like, how long have you been incarcerated, and what did you get convicted of?
Jerome: Well, I am 58 years old. I was born in St. Louis MO. Growing up for me was like a two fold measure for the family support was always present. I was raise up by my Mother and Grandmother. They was of the working class, I never went to bed hunger, or without clothes or shoes, I was the oldest out of 6 siblings and the only one who been in and out of prison. I was always in trouble with the law, I have always rebel against authority. At a very young age of 17 years old I was introduce to true revolutionary ideas of George Jackson “Prison Letters”, I fall in love! I have been in prison for 36 ½ years, and was convicted for 32 armed robberies and a second degree murder case on a government agent.

(A): I understand that you are an anarchist who was involved in establishing the Missouri Prison Labor Union. How did you come to radical/ revolutionary politics?
Jerome: As as prisoner, I also was a jailhouse lawyer. I always felt that as prisoners we need to have some form of protection against the powers that be, we are force into free slave labor and if we don’t work in prison we are punish by being thrown in the hole and in some cases even beaten. I believe that a prisoner’s labor union is the one thing that will bring all of us together throughout the whole country. Can you picture such a force fighting on the inside of prisons in every state throughout the USA.
(A): When did you set up the union and what initially provoked it? Is the union still active?
Jerome: The MPLU was set up in Aug 1998 and yes we are still active, but things are now on low key until I am release from prison for obvious reasons. Working condition was the cause for setup the MPLU.
(A): Has the union achieved any victories?
Yes we have force some rule changes here in prison, but nothing major, our struggle is still on going.
(A): Can you give a brief (or lengthy- it’s up to you) description of the labor conditions in your prison or Missouri prisons in general?
Jerome: (A) can you picture you having a job out there without any benefits, no retirement plans, no nothing. Prisoners are force into work until we die, there is no such thing until retirement age, there is no vacation time, as property of the state we are told that we have no such rights. If a prisoner get hurt on the job, to were he loss a leg, finger or hand there is no compensation. In the summer months the shops and work place are extremely hot and in the winter its cold and the food we are fed is foul. Prisoners, we are force into 8 hours to 12 hours work shifts. The State is making millions of dollors off our slave labor, and it is all free money from free labor. Prisoners are human beings, but in the eyes of the State we are sub-humans, slaves, dogs, nothing!


The System
Today in the current state of economic development the vast majority of the world's people have been separated from their means of production by the capitalist government. Our economic and social system subjects people to poverty and degradation which feeds on the blood of the oppressed people, we are all in prison and this system is upheld by a system of law designed to isolate, imprison and punish those of us who are impoverished or who try to resist the ongoing injustices. My name is Jerome White-Bey and I have been in prison for 28 years and the crimes that landed me here were brought upon me by the system. To class, which has little property to call its own, and whose exploitation forms the wealth of the capitalists, the sole reason for prison today is to make the rich richer, the courts are a farce, and the police and prison coercive institutions are designed to keep us in our place. History is filled with facts regarding this truth. The legitimacy of the court system is based on the myth of equality before the law and the myth that the laws are founded on the principles of justice, there has never been equality and justice for us here in the USA, we were convicted by the system at the dawn of the first light when we open up our eyes. The myths of justice and equality are rooted in the system and those who are not directly oppressed by the discrimination of the law often refuse to see the existance of this discrimination and hyporisy. Legislators, judges, prosecutors and lawyers are educated by the same system that oppresses us. The only answer to all of this is to shut it down once and for all. "POWER TO THE PEOPLE!"
Solidarity in struggle
Jerome White-Bey

Rise Up

The freedom I have in mind, the only liberty worthy of that name, liberty consisting in the full development of all the material, intellectual and moral power latent in every man; a liberty which does not recognize any other restrictions but those which are traced by the laws of our nature...
I have in mind the liberty of everyone which, far from finding itself checked by the freedom of others, is, on the contrary, confirmed by it and extended to infinity. I have in mind the freedom of every individual unlimited by the freedom of all, freedom in equality, freedom triumphing over brute force and the principle of authority (which was ever the ideal expression of this force); a freedom which, having overthrown all the heavenly and earthly idols, will have founded and organized a new world, the world of human solidarity, upon the ruins of all the churches.....
In Struggle
Jerome White-Bey


The Road to Prison: the Life of Jerome White-Bey
By Julia Lutsky & Jerome White-Bey

Introduction Jerome White Bey’s great-great-grandfather, Allen Parker, in all likelihood, was born a slave and died a free man. At the end of the Civil War, in 1865, Congress passed and President Lincoln signed into law, the 13th Amendment of the Bill of Rights: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime where the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction." Ninety years later, Jerome was born free; he will, however, considering the Amendment just quoted, most probably die in slavery.
In 1887, twenty-two years after the end of slavery, when Jerome's great-great-grandfather was still a young man, the state of Missouri established the Missouri Training School (MTS) for Boys. Located in Booneville, a rural town west of St. Louis, its stated purpose was the reformation of delinquent boys between the ages of 10 and 17. It became, however, a storehouse where children whose parents could not control them were placed and forgotten. Behind its walls these "incorrigible" children became the objects of draconian punishment including solitary confinement, beatings, hosing down and chaining. By the 1940s its reputation as a house of horrors was solidly established. Originally intended to house up to 350 youngsters, by 1967 it held over 600 youths. Cots were crowded together scant inches from each other, forcing boys to sleep cheek by jowl with one another.
When youths were deemed troublesome to the point of incorrigibility, they would be transferred to the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, an adult institution, or to the prison farm at Algoa, a facility for young adult offenders. A priest told one boy who asked why he and several others were being transferred: "Because you're mess-ups." Though the majority of boys at MTS at any time were white, the majority of those transferred as incorrigible were black. That the majority of correctional officers were whites from largely white rural areas in Missouri cannot be discounted as a deciding factor in the decisions as to which youths were deemed "incorrigible" and hence subject to transfer.
By the late 1960s, photographs of the deplorable crowding and squalid conditions began to appear in newspapers and legislators were obliged to scrutinize the facility. As a result, state officials decided to utilize smaller schools and to emphasize counseling. The children so unkindly stigmatized as "mess-ups" would hereafter be counseled rather than transferred. Nevertheless, the transfer of youths to adult institutions continued apace until 1971 when the Missouri Supreme Court, in response to a suit that began 5 years earlier, voted 5-4 to find so-called "administrative transfer" unconstitutional.
The youths that left the MTS were markedly different from the boys they had been when they entered. Brutalized in such a manner and to such an extent as they had been in Booneville, the paths their lives would now take were nearly entirely determined for them: if they had received brutality for no reason, they would dispense it in the same manner. It is as if they had been bred for prison. Most of them returned to the prison system and remained there until they died or were released for perhaps a few years, only to return once again.

The MTS at Booneville may no longer exist as it did in the years prior to the mid 1970s, but similar juvenile justice systems still exist in many states throughout the country. Today, in fact, we see an increasing amount of sentencing and/or transferal of "incorrigible" youth to adult facilities with all the brutalization such imprisonment implies. As in Missouri, those sentenced and/or transferred to adult facilities are largely youths of color and the poor. Thus we make our youth into fodder for the future wars they will necessarily wage for their own dignity and freedom.
As you read Jerome's account of his time at Booneville, you will see first and foremost that he has never relinquished his dignity or his freedom to think for himself. Given what he has been through, what he is presently living and the future he undoubtedly faces, one can only respect his courage. He has not bowed to what are apparently unbeatable odds. Nor will he.
(Introduction written by Julia B. Lutsky)
Just Another One of the Boys from Booneville By Jerome White Bey
When I was growing up, I was looked upon as a problem child, for I was always in and out of the juvenile center. We lived on the south side of St. Louis; I can remember how I used to get into fights in school every day. I never started them but I was always the one blamed. My mother and grandmother were always there for me. The family unit was in place.
I recall that, in 1967, I ran away from home to hang out with my friends–the bad boys of the neighborhood. I began to love the street life; there were no adults around to tell us what to do or not to do; we stole whatever we wanted or needed. One day, my mother caught me and took me back home. I ran away again and again. The police caught me breaking into someone's house and I was taken to the juvenile center. They called my mother but when she got there she told the juvenile authorities to keep me for awhile as she was having problems with me. If they kept me, maybe it would teach me a lesson.
My mother, father, grandmother and grandfather all visited me while I was in jail. After four months, my juvenile officer told my mother she could take me home if she wanted to, so I went home. I remember how happy everyone was to see me and how nice everyone was to me. However, in 1968, I ran away from home again. The police caught me and turned me over to juvenile court. In 1969, the court sent me to the Missouri Training School for Boys in Booneville. That is how I became one of the boys from Booneville. There I also began to get the same reputation as a troublemaker, a bad boy, and an undesirable no one could control.
I was always into trouble at Booneville because the staff was extremely racist. I had never experienced racism until I was sent to Booneville. The first time I was called a "nigger" was at Booneville–by a staff member named Mr. Carmichael. Every weekend it was almost a ritual that I had to fight the duke of the dormitory or another kid there. One day while I was drinking water in the fields digging up potatoes, Mr. Foster, the head man over us, walked up to me and kicked me in the ass and said "Nigger boy, get back to work." I lost all control of myself and rushed toward him. I remember knocking him to the ground, and then I was put in the hole. That was my first time in the hole. Then one day they came and got about six of us and drove us to Jefferson City to the Missouri State Penitentiary. Of the boys, Gary (Fox) Barber, came back to prison and another prisoner killed him in 1986. One other boy, Earl Davis, and I are the only other ones alive: Earl is a minister somewhere–but he too came back to prison.
At the age of thirteen, I was sitting in a prison cell called H-Hall crying my head off; I was scared to death. I remember receiving little love notes and candy in H-Hall. I remember telling the other boys we all have to stick together no matter what. In November of 1969, we were sent to Algoa. Now, Algoa was extremely hard for me because the older prisoners used to always jump on me, asking for sex trying to make a punk out of me. I had to fight each and every day. The guards were of no use to any of us. One day I was put in the hole for talking while in line. I remember beating on the door, complaining that my cell was cold. The guards sprayed me with water hoses and then opened the windows. After a month I was released from the hole.
I'd been sent to Jefferson City in August or September of 1969, then to Algoa at the first week of September, 1970; I can remember the guards coming into my cell beating me with sticks because I would not stop hollering and pleading for help. One day I was released out of the hole, then the following week a lawyer came to see us and asked us if we wanted to go home. We all said yes; we were told to sign some papers and the following week we were put on a bus and sent back to St. Louis. We had not committed any crime; we were given no reason why we'd been sent to Jefferson City.
I have always believed that this horrifying experience is the sole reason that today I am sitting in prison where I have now been for 24 years. Since I understand things much better today, I can clearly see that I was bred for prison life the way one breeds cows, horses, pigs or dogs and as it was then it is now.
As I recall, after my release from Algoa in February ‘71, I mostly stayed around he house and enrolled myself back in school with the help of a juvenile case worker whose name was Mr. Thomas. Mr. Thomas was real cool. I liked him a lot. I used to have to report to him once a week. I was enrolled in Southwest High GED classes. One day I saw one of my old friends. We started hanging out together. We were not getting into any trouble, but I stopped going to school.
One day, as I was walking home, one of the Barry twins, who lived down the street from me on St. Vincent Street, offered me a ride in his car. He dropped me off at my house and we talked for a while. I went in the house, changed clothes and then hit the streets. As I went down the street, I saw Barry sitting in his car. He asked me did I want to go with him over to his girlfriend's house? I said, sure, why not? I never thought to question Barry about his car, so we got into his car and as soon as we turned onto Grand, the police got in behind us with their lights flashing. Then Barry told me that this was not his car, it was stolen and to add insult to injury, he jumped out of the car, and left me holding the bag, so to speak, for I forgot to run. The only thing that helped me some was that the police saw the driver jump out of the car and run. Since I refused to tell who the driver was, I was arrested for riding in a stolen car and lo and behold, guess what happened? I found myself again being sent to Booneville in July of ‘71.
But this time things were different for I was the only one sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary and released and sent back to Booneville. While at Booneville the second time, I was able to stay out of trouble. A Food Service training school course has been established and one could learn a trade in food service. So I took the course in Food Service Management. I completed the course. Nevertheless, the staff at Booneville was terrified of me because I had done the impossible. I had survived a horrifying experience and had lived to tell the story of what had happened. I did not then understand why the staff at Booneville was always so nervous around me. I used to think they were afraid of me because I had knocked one of the staff members down, but now I realize that was not the case. The fear of their being discovered was what terrified them; they had violated the law in the worst possible way by putting an innocent boy in prison. If word were ever to get out to the public, they were done for.
One day I was called to the Booneville Administrative Building and when I arrived I was ordered to cuff up [be handcuffed] because I was being sent back to the Juvenile Center in St. Louis. I was not allowed to pack my personal belongings and to this day I never saw my personal property again. When I arrived at the Juvenile Center, I learned that Booneville officials sent me back to the Center to have me certified as an adult. The Juvenile Court judge, however, ordered that I be sent back to Booneville, but the Booneville officials refused to accept me back. The Juvenile Court judge then released me into the custody of my mother in January of ‘72.
I can remember growing up after I was released from Juvenile, how the police used to go out of their way to harass me. I can remember how the police used to catch me by myself and take me to the Third District Police Station on the south side of St. Louis and make me walk from there to my own neighborhood. This was a problem because I had to walk through an all-white neighborhood and, as soon as some white dudes spotted me, the foot race was on. The police would do this once or twice a month. The white dudes never caught me and I became so well known on my little walks in the neighborhood that I had free passage as long as I did not go wandering around. I remember how my little walks became a joke to them so instead of chasing me through their neighborhood some would laugh me through it. Even so, I made a friend or two along the way.
The police came up with something new called frame-ups or set-ups, so at the age of 17 I was sitting in prison, charged with a robbery I had nothing to do with, on a three-year sentence, all certified and legal-like. I ended up meeting again in prison every one of the boys from Booneville who were transferred with me on the first go-around. Not once did we, our families, lawyers, judges, news reporters, parole officers, or others mention what had happened to us. The state of Missouri has been covering this up for way too long and I am seeking a closure to this nightmare. Can you believe that from 1968 up until today I have never seen a Christmas, a birthday, a New Year, a Thanksgiving in society (i.e. the free world)?
This nightmare began when they illegally sent me to prison at thirteen years old. I ask you, where is the justice? I am 46 years old and I have been unjustly condemned to sitting in the hole. I am classified as an undesirable even today because I continue to resist and oppose the injustices and inequities of this state system of social control. I plan to fight the injustice that was done to me until death seizes me or until justice prevails...
This is becoming extremely difficult for me for the pain is real and my mind keeps shutting down. It will have to do until I am able to go deeper into my past. [There is a lot more to tell but] that's a lot to ask, a lot of doors to open that I am not ready to deal with for the pain and suffering is great. I have to really sit down and put my all into this because it involves my revolutionary consciousness...I can see the need to have my experience out there. [Consequently, my story will] be continued...

Thursday, July 31, 2014


I have been warning about Ebola and other viruses for years.  From the start of the current Ebola outbreak, read epidemic, in West Africa I have posted numerous times on the subject.  

This won't be a story about the brave few who are fighting this disease at the risk of their own lives and with few rewards.  I have nothing but respect for those doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers right now on the front lines.  

This is a story about something else entirely.

The American corporate media, the left, the right, the middle were largely silent about what has been happening in West Africa for months.  Every now and then you would see some little piece somewhere, but not to worry, Ebola was hidden away in "deepest, darkest Africa."

Then an American got sick and died and the media woke up.  Ebola became the number one news.  Could it come here the Western media wondered?  Could it sneak its way here on an air flight, even to the USA?  The evening news anchors were scared.  Right wingers began saying Ebola could slip across that pesky southern borders of ours.  The left, still largely unconcerned for whatever reason remained virtually silent.

Racism, capitalism, health, ebola even, they are all connected and don't you think for a minute that they are not.

Of course, we in the USA we are busy with low testosterone, erectile dysfunction, and be sure to ask your doctor about restless leg syndrome, and what about that new diet, what about some new sinus medicine.   The pharmaceutical industry, after all, didn't see any money to be made in a disease that killed 50% to 80% of those it infected...because they were Africans.  Big Pharmo is about Big Money and there just wan't any Big Money to be made in a bunch of dead Africans in some "out of the way" corner of the planet.

On the scene itself, some local entrepreneurs have found a way to make a little cash out of the dead and dying, out of Ebola. In Liberia, a survey conducted by the Inquirer there finds that:

...the prices of alcohol, soap, buckets, disinfectants such as chlorine, face mask latex glove among others have skyrocketed in recent time since it was announced that they play a greater role in combating the spread of Ebola.

Some unscrupulous business houses are also selling detergent soaps and other materials that are capable of combating the spread of the deadly Ebola virus are sold at higher prices sometimes twice the amount they were originally sold for prior to the outbreak of the Ebola virus.  (EDITORIAL NOTE: AS A FRIEND JUST COMMENTED TO ME AFTER READING THIS, " I know of no upscale across-the-counter soap/detergent that will stop the spread of Ebola better than others.  This is high octane Snake Oil. "  He is, of course, correct.)
From supermarket to another, prices of these commodities have been increased on ground that more people are buying them in a bid to stop the spread of Ebola.

Latex Gloves were seen being sold at every street corner of Monrovia for the third day running and a consumer noted that the price of gloves continue to increase by the days.

Who is behind this?  Local businessmen say don't blame us.  They claim it is the importers who are increasing the prices.

And what's this?  In the middle of the worst epidemic of this deadly disease in history when the President of Sierra Leone pays an unexpected visit to the Ebola Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the WHO Country Office off King Harman Road, Freetown.  What does he find?  The place was closed with no sign that there is an emergency in the country right now to tackle the outbreak.  The EOC was formed as a response mechanism to fight the deadly Ebola outbreak and is co-Directed by the Minister of Health, Ms. Miata Kargbo and the WHO Representative for Sierra Leone, Dr. Jacob Mufunda and consists of leaders and partners involved in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.  So, uh, closed.  All Africa writes:

It was expected that the operations centre was in full swing on a 24 hour basis. "We need quick response and decision making to speed up the process in redesigning our strategy to fight this deadly disease," President Koroma said, and urged WHO to ensure the EOC is fully operational.

President Koroma also assigned Ambassador Professor Monty Jones to monitor the operations of the EOC at all times to ensure it's up and running on a 24 hour basis. He vowed to be visiting the centre without notice.

Brings to mind the old "WHO's on first" thing. 

Anyway, I have bigger fish to fry then local capitalists and some closed up WHO emergency center.

Actually, I think I will sit back and let someone else fry those fish.

A week and a half ago Susan Sered ( a Professor of Sociology at Suffolk University in Boston who has published six books, including "Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity) writing at Salon scolded America for its shameful ignorance about the spread of Ebola.  She wrote at the time:

The United States, according to the CDC, has sent a seven-person team to help in Guinea, and provided protective clothing and equipment for healthcare workers in all three countries. In the grand scheme of things, that is a minimal amount of aid – echoed by the minimal coverage the outbreak has garnered in U.S. media. (Far more attention was afforded GOP Congressman Phil Gingrey’s outlandish and factually implausible comments about refugee children crossing the border bringing Ebola into the United States from Central America.)

There is more than one way to interpret America’s disinterest. One is racism — the sense that the people dying of Ebola are so different from “us” that we really can’t identify with them. Another is compassion fatigue. Isn’t there always some horrible disease afflicting Africa and Africans?

Indeed, many of the English-language articles that have been written about the Ebola outbreak focus on “ignorant” and “superstitious” Africans who give more credence to witchcraft than to modern medicine.

This analysis, picked up by several news outlets, simultaneously reveals the kind of xenophobic Western mindset that victims of the Ebola outbreak distrust, and hints at why Western readers do not seem all that interested in learning about or from the outbreak.

Well, until an American died that is.  Sered isn't done.  She goes on to talk about all those reports about many West Africans not trusting the out of town docs who have come to town, about thinking the healthcare workers are lying, maybe even spreading the disease.   She writes:

From my perch as a medical sociologist, the claim that mobs attacking treatment centers are panicking reveals “troubling truths“ regarding the Western track record of medical experiments and geopolitical ambitions in Africa. Distrust of Western medicine may have less to do with superstition than with history: forced sterilizations in Peru; the intentional infection of Guatemalans with gonorrhea and syphilis; marketing campaigns urging mothers in countries lacking safe water supplies to replace breastfeeding with infant formula so that women could work in western-owned factories; the sale in Africa of pharmaceuticals that passed their expiration date for sale in the West; the harvesting of organs in India for transplants to wealthy foreigners.

There is more...a lot more Ms. Sered has to say and she says it well,

In sub-Saharan Africa, outbreaks of new diseases such as Ebola (first identified in 1976) echo the spread of industrialization, urbanization, unprecedented militarization (funded by western countries), deforestation and the destruction of eco-systems that have forced communities to expand their search for food into territories that traditionally were not used for that purpose. In reports in the English-language press, however, there is little consideration of the political and economic structural forces that gave rise to the emergence and spread of Ebola. Rather, as Jared Jones writes, “African ‘Otherness’ overpowers the possibility of a non-cultural causality in the dominant discourse, and other factors are left unexamined as potentially causal or exacerbating.” Attention to sorcery rather than the inequalities of globalization obscures the fact that the biggest leaps in life expectancy in the U.S. and Europe came about because of massive government-funded public health measures — sewage systems and clean water supplies – not because we gave up our religious beliefs.

The articles I read in the English-language press decry the absence of functioning healthcare infrastructures in the African nations hit by the Ebola virus. But I am not convinced that the United States would do much better. There are a great many things that western medical institutions and personnel do extraordinarily well. We have sophisticated surgical technology and an advanced pharmacopeia of medicines to treat hundreds of diseases. But the bulk of our medical resources go towards curing rather than prevention. What we do dedicate to prevention tends to be limited to proximate factors such as germs and personal behaviors such as smoking that make individuals sick. We also divert resources into campaigns for procedures such as mammograms which detect but do not prevent disease. We pay less attention to poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and, yes, globalization, as root causes of sickness.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the United States has contributed so minimally to managing the Ebola outbreak. Effective public health endeavors need organized and sustainable systems for preventing the spread of disease. And, as I have argued before, the United States does not have a healthcare system. “System” denotes an overarching set of principles, practices, procedures and organizational structures, whereas our U.S. healthcare landscape is a decentralized and incoherent hodgepodge of financing and delivery mechanisms lacking rational methods for setting priorities.

Services and regulations, as well as thresholds for Medicaid eligibility, vary enormously from state to state. Municipal, county and state health departments rarely have mechanisms to keep track of patients who move to another jurisdiction. Hospitals around the country and even within one city or state use incompatible medical records. (Even the federal government’s Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense records are mutually inaccessible.) We have for-profit and not-for-profit hospitals. (And it’s often difficult to tell which is which.) Though many of us believe that emergency rooms serve as a safety net,federal law only requires emergency rooms to assess and stabilize patients (and they are allowed to charge a whole lot to do so), not to cure them. Walk-in clinics are proliferating in Wal-Mart and CVS branches. Hundreds of for-profit and not-for-profit insurance companies compete for “good” (that is, well-paying and relatively healthy) patients and customers. Behavioral and oral healthcare are almost never integrated with the rest of healthcare. And the Affordable Care Act — touting that “consumers” can “choose” the insurance plans that “best fit their needs” — is not designed to turn this chaos into any sort of longterm sustainable system.

We need to learn about public health emergencies around the world not only because they might become our emergencies, but also because those emergencies could be better contained and managed if we were to invest our expertise, our attention and our resources into community, national and international health preservation. For a fraction of the money that Western countries have poured into military campaigns in Africa, it would have been possible to support local governments in building functioning public health infrastructures. But let’s also not forget that despite spending more on healthcare per person than any other country in the world, here in the U.S. we are dead last among developed countries in health and life-expectancy, according to a recent study of 11 nations by the Commonwealth Fund. Ignoring the reality that the health of each of us is inexorably intertwined with the health of others is a collective disaster-in-the-making.

Global capital, racism, xenophobia, the legacy of imperialism are killing the people of West Africa today with the aid of the Ebola virus.

It ain't nothing new.

The following little ditty is from and that's the way it was...

If an Ebola vaccine were as profitable as erection pills, we’d already have one

The ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa is easily the deadliest outbreak in the disease’s known* history, having infected a suspected 1323 people and having killed 729 of them. Since it began in Guinea in February, this outbreak has caused Liberia to close its borders, caused Nigeria to begin screening passengers on incoming flights, caused Sierra Leone to declare a national state of emergency, and caused the Peace Corps to pull its volunteers out of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The Centers for Disease Control issued its highest-level travel warning (level 3: “avoid nonessential travel”) for West Africa.
The good news, though unfortunately not for the people who are being infected right now, is that there’s movement on the path toward an Ebola vaccine. The NIH is supposed to begin a trial in September of something that has proven effective in non-human primate trials, and if it’s successful it could be distributed beginning in 2015, initially to health workers who are at the greatest risk of contracting the virus. There are a few other potential treatments/vaccines in the pipeline as well. But buried in that piece on the NIH trial is what really ought to be the final word on the for-profit healthcare industry:
The only positive development to come from the epidemic is that it’s attracted long-needed attention from drug makers, Fauci said.
“We have been working on our own Ebola vaccine, but we never could get any buy-in from the companies,” he said.
Fear is growing internationally as the Ebola virus spreads across Western Africa, and health officials are quarantining airline passengers with symptoms of the deadly disease.
For years, pharmaceutical companies have seen little potential for profit in Ebola, because outbreaks are unpredictable and typically small, Geisbert said.
“It’s not like cancer or heart disease, or even a prevalent infectious disease like malaria,” he said.
Here we have a virus that kills between 50% and 90% of everyone who comes down with it, and has to date no known treatment or cure, but because it breaks out irregularly and then only in mostly poor, rural Africa, our various pharmaceutical giants just didn’t see a need to do anything about it. It’s only after a thousand or so people in somewhat wealthier, urban Africa died, and folks in the West started to sweat a little that the virus might possibly make its way out of Africa altogether, that these companies finally deigned to pay attention to the problem. Because suddenly there’s a chance they might be able to make a buck off of the disease, where before it looked like some BS charity case.
Hooray, capitalism.
Sarah Kliff at Vox has more, in an interview with Ebola researcher Daniel Bausch, a professor at Tulane. Bausch notes that the other lever that’s actually freeing up some money for finding a treatment is that it’s now become a national security issue:
SK: So what stands between that science and getting these drugs to Ebola patients?
DB: Part of that is economics. These outbreaks affect the poorest communities on the planet. Although they do create incredible upheaval, they are relatively rare events. So if you look at the interest of pharmaceutical companies, there is not huge enthusiasm to take an Ebola drug through phase one, two, and three of a trial and make an Ebola vaccine that maybe a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people will use.
There’s not a huge demand for this, but there could be other ways to move forward. There are concerns, for example, about Ebola being used as bioterrorism, and that drives a lot of the funding for this. The Department of Defense might be interested in a vaccine if they thought the disease could be used as a weapon.
We need to find the mechanism to get to the next step, and get them out there for actual use.
I wonder if whoever convinced the Pentagon that Ebola was a potential bioweapon did it just to see if that would shake loose some R&D money. I’d like to think so, because at least playing to America’s post-9/11 state of paranoia has the potential to raise some money. A bunch of dead folks in Africa sure didn’t do the trick.
Bausch goes on to say that the only place that’s been funding any research into Ebola treatments has been the NIH, which usually does the basic research on these things before handing them off to the private sector for testing and development. But in this case, the private sector looked at Ebola and thought, “hey, we can’t make any money off of that,” and so the NIH has had to shoulder the entire load.
Here’s the thing: we’ve got, what, 3 or 5 or more pills on the market to help men get erections? Imagine if the R&D money that went into just one of those had been put into finding an Ebola vaccine 5 or 10 years ago. I’m all for quality of life, but the only place where a boner could possibly be more important than somebody’s life is on the budget sheet of a for-profit drug company. I’m sorry, but that’s just perverse, and if it’s not an indictment of for-profit healthcare then it’s at least a very strong case for a much more robust public system than what we currently have.
*Apparently, some researchers think that the Plague of Athens in 430 BCE, which may have killed as many as 100,000 people and caused Athens to lose the Peloponnesian War, was an Ebola outbreak. Go figure.