Monday, December 18, 2017

Three stories to knock that Christmas cheer right out of you

'Tis the season for sharing, which in this case means sharing some of the stories that caught my attention today.

Putting them into a blog post will not only add (incrementally) to their profile, but will ensure I have them here for whenever I need them, to remind me why my favourite bumper sticker of all time was "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

Plus it's my birthday today, and I would feel good about putting up a post that lets me feel less badly about my decidedly lacklustre posting record of late.

First, this survey of 153 Canadian executives, of which only eight were women (no surprise, given that the glass ceiling has in fact turned out to be made of hardwood, or of glass so slippery that we females simply lose our footing once on top of it), in which 95 per cent reported that sexual harassment is not a problem in their workplace.

Sweet jesus, how they even say such things with a straight face is beyond me, but just let me say this to the Canadian execs: Watch out, buddy, because Harvey Weinstein is not an anomaly. And right now, some former employee of yours is out there speaking your name as the creepy boss from her distant past, and that will not go unheard by the karma gods, who will almost certainly be turning you out into your next life as a low-level young female employee under a disgusting lecher of a boss.

Then there was this story from Ben Parfitt in the Tyee, in which it's revealed that not only have 48 dams been built on public lands without permits by energy companies fracking for gas in northeast BC in recent years, but that more than half of them have serious structural problems.

It turns out that BC's Oil and Gas Commission was being rather free with a clause in the Land Act that lets companies use public lands to "store water."

"But in approving the applications," writes Parfitt, "commission personnel failed to ask basic, critical questions: How did companies intend to store the water? In tanks? In pits? Behind dams? Since the OGC didn’t ask, the companies didn’t disclose that they planned to build dams — lots of them.

"Nor did they disclose that in many cases, the water sources for their dams would be creeks and other water bodies that the companies were not entitled to draw from because they hadn’t applied for, let alone received, water licences. Since they hadn’t applied for those licences, they weren’t legally entitled to build the dams."

Oops. Now what, we might ask? The offenders are already asking for retroactive approval. As Parfitt notes, that certainly would make things interesting around the requirement to consult with First Nations, seeing as the dams already exist. 

Then there's this story about a group of Big Pharma executives in the US charged with racketeering for fraudulent business dealings, bribing doctors (who, I must say, don't come out of this looking so great), and essentially being the evil bastards that I've long thought they are. 

Admittedly, this story is from October, not today. But with news out this very day that Canada's fentanyl crisis continues unabated (the situation is even worse in the US, where overdose deaths in the last two decades have killed more people than World War I, II and Vietnam combined), I want to do my part to give this staggering tale of truly despicable collusion a little more profile. 

The case involves InSys Therapeutics Inc.'s desire to increase the use of a fentanyl-based drug that was supposed to be used only for cancer patients in the grips of pain so fierce that no other drug would stop it. The bosses at InSys wanted so badly to increase sales beyond cancer patients that they set up a "reimbursement unit" whose whole raison d'etre was to trick insurers and pharmacy benefit managers into believing that doctors - who we now know were on the InSys payroll - had non-cancer patients who needed this drug. 

Too bleak? Am I supposed to be posting "nice" news so we can all feel warm about our brethren as we head into a new year? Well, here's the trouble with good news - it apparently brings us such comfort that we forget that there's still a hell of a lot of misery and outrageous behaviour going on out here. I'm the Grinch. Oscar the Grouch. Eeyore. I'm a pessimistic optimist, driven to go against my nature by the hard truths of this willfully blind, crushingly disappointing and dangerously stupid world. 

Oh, and best of the holiday season to you and yours. Such a joyous time of year.