“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Enter TITUS, dressed like a cook, LAVINIA, veiled, young LUCIUS, and Others. TITUS places the dishes on the table.

Act 1:

According to the March 6, 2004 issue of Pulse magazine, a British medical journal, 1 in 100 men born in the 1940s will die of mesothelioma. This contrasts with the 1960s, where the incidence was about 100 cases a year. Swift and Treasure, the authors, describe the disease in this graf:

“Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a slowgrowing cancer that starts in the parietal pleura, forming a thick cortex, and then encases the lung. It grows out, invading the chest wall. It often causes pleural effusions and two, three liters of fluid leaves little room to breathe. These changes cause the typical presenting features of worsening breathlessness and growing pain. It commonly presents late with a grim prognosis; survival from diagnosis is usually less than a year.”

Is there a causative agent?

“In nearly all cases this cancer is a direct result of exposure to asbestos.”

In America, the related figure for deaths is estimated (although not by the present administration, but by everyone else) at around 300,000 deaths. A double tsunami.

Act 2

“The feast is ready which the careful Titus
Hath ordain’d to an honourable end…”

“IN THE EARLY 1980S, when plaintiffs began filing asbestos lawsuits against Babcock & Wilcox, the company decided that fighting them would be futile. B&W's insurance adjuster, who had experience handling asbestos injury claims for other firms, knew what kind of impression a certain type of plaintiff could make on jurors. How could they be objective in the presence of someone with mesothelioma, the signature asbestos disease? Victims of this rare and ghastly form of lung cancer are essentially strangled to death by their own lung tissue.

Rather than expecting jurors to see beyond such tragedy, the Ohio-based power-plant builder quietly began offering payments to plaintiffs who agreed not to sue B&W. The payments, based on the severity of the victims' ailments, didn't require them to jump through too many hoops to collect. Even if some less-than-deserving claimants occasionally slipped through, B&W saved substantially by avoiding trial costs and punitive-damage awards. The company found it could settle claims for "nuisance value"--less than $5,000 for nonmalignant lung ailments, and an average of $56,000 for cases of mesothelioma.” - Kiplinger Personal Finance, Jun2002,

In the standard history of this epidemic, the team of Irving Selikoff’s is credited with definitely making the link between the cancer and asbestos back in 1964, with a study of workers in William Carlos William’s town, Patterson, New Jersey. However, as Joseph Ledau noted in Environmental Health Perspectives (March, 2004), the WHO only indicated the hazard of asbestos in 1986. Why the delay?

Because the asbestos industry systematically lied about the issue, and tried in every way to suppress the truth.

A chronicle about the discovery of the dangers of asbestos, and what the industry did about it, is here. Here’s a sample of how the bankrupted Manville treated the problem, taken from Paul Brodeur’s work:

* Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. doctors find that 29 percent of workers in a Johns-Manville plant have asbestosis.
Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.26

* Johns-Manville officials settle lawsuits by 11 employees with asbestosis on the condition that the employees' lawyer agree to never again "directly or indirectly participate in the bringing of new actions against the Corporation."
Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.114
* Officials of two large asbestos companies, Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan, edit an article about the diseases of asbestos workers written by a Metropolitan Life Insurance Company doctor. The changes minimize the danger of asbestos dust.
Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.114-15
* Officials of Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan instruct the editor of Asbestos magazine to publish nothing about asbestosis.
Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.116

Brodeur wrote a response to Senator Frist’s comment, last year, downplaying the hazards of asbestos, and included this interesting comment from the unfairly treated Manville company:

“As for Frist's contention that bankrupt companies like Johns Manville, Owens Corning, and W. R. Grace are "reputable," one wonders what he has been reading over the past twenty years. Manville -- one of the most renegade corporations in all of corporate history -- not only knew for five decades that asbestos was killing its workers, but also actively conspired to keep its workers from knowing about the hazard. This conspiracy included lying to workers about the results of X-rays showing that they had developed and fatal lung disease. Manville's corporate lawyer put it this way back in the 1930s. Keep the workers in the dark and "let them work themselves to death.””

Act 3

"It's not fair to those who are getting sued, and it's not fair for those who justly deserve compensation," said Bush, appearing at a performing arts center just north of Detroit. "These asbestos suits have bankrupted a lot of companies, and that affects the workers here in Michigan and around the country."

“Welcome, my gracious lord; welcome, dread queen;
Welcome, ye warlike Goths; welcome, Lucius;
And welcome, all: although the cheer be poor,
'Twill fill your stomachs; please you eat of it.”

There is an unfortunate Islamofascist prejudice against the great American corporations, as if untermenschen aren’t provided with fine homes in which to suffocate to death as they await their appointed ends. This is why Industry wisely paid a lot of money to secure the public from hearing the distressing news about the asbestos linked diseases in the first place. Actually, a Bendix official said it much better than we can:

“The 1966 comments of the Director of Purchasing for Bendix Corporation, now a part of Honeywell, capture the complete disregard of an industry for its workforce that is expressed over and over again in company documents spanning the past 60 years.
"...if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products, why not die from it."
— 1966 Bendix Corporation letter”

Of course, to the Washington Post, the asbestos issue is all about Democrats getting funding from trial lawyers.

So tiresome to bring in bulky workers, sterterous breathers with those unsightly plastic tubes running up their noses, grunting to inglorious deaths. I mean, these people didn’t even go to a sub-Ivy! So fuck em. Thus, the WP reporter, one Peter Baker, is so giddy at the President’s cleverness (what a framer of issues!) that he doesn’t even bother to report that there is that wee business of Halliburton’s asbestos related claims, which is the direct responsibility of Cheney, until a way down the fold paragraph. As for calling up, say, Brodeur, who has written four books on the subject … pleeeeaaaasssee. That is so 1970s! Those workers look like undemocratic Ukranians, after all!


Will't please you eat? will't please your
highness feed?

What LI would humbly like to propose is that the President extend his compassion to the poor asbestos industry, for which he feels so much and with such woeful speech (indeed, on the NPR excerpt, he sounded either fearfully muffled by the unfairness of it all to everyone he loves, or completely stoned), by eating a pie full of asbestos fibers. In public. Wouldn’t that be yummy! Such a pretty thing to set before the king. Other D.C. courtiers could pitch in – ice cream on top of it for our fave, grave VP, Dick Cheney, he of the seven billion dollar payout for the damage done! And perhaps the WP's Baker could be sent to cover the event -- and if he is lucky, he could be called up by the President himself, given an official jokey nickname, and be served a big heaping plateful himself! My, how they could all then laugh at the trial lawyers. Big laughs, big mouthfuls everybody!


Why, there they are both, baked in that pie;
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
'Tis true, 'tis true; witness my knife's sharp point.”


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