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Avoiding the President

Capitalism: Success, Crisis and Reform (PLSC 270) Professor Rae uses the Merck-Vioxx business case to highlight political elements of US capitalism, including government regulatory agencies, federalism, lobbying, regulatory capture, tort law and liability, and patent law. Professor Rae discusses the importance and influence of concentrated business interests in Washington DC. The Merck legal battles underline how important political and judicial details are in the operation of capitalism. The case also shows the constraints that reform-minded politicians face in attempting to change the status quo. Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: open.yale.edu This course was recorded in Fall 2009.

presidential pardon process
by SS&SS

A nurse flicked on the light at 5:30 A.M. My first day on Ward 57 had begun. “What’s your pain on a scale of zero to ten, with ten the worst pain you’ve ever had?” she asked. Pain was apparently so endemic here it was charted on a meter. “Five,” I replied, testing the waters. Morning rounds immediately followed, a raucous rush hour of doctors consulting with night nurses and checking on their patients. A pair of interns entered in bright yellow smocks, face masks, and rubber gloves — protection against a drug-resistant bacterial infection common to Iraq, Acinetobacter baumannii, which is contracted through open wounds. The young doctors rebandaged my arm. They used tiny tweezers to pull out and replace pieces of cotton string in eight deep holes of my right thigh and buttocks. I screamed ten on the pain scale and received a shot of Demerol.

At 7 A.M., a caravan of gurneys arrived to transport soldiers to surgery. I was spared, left to the legions of specialists who proved the old adage about hospitals being the last place to get rest. I welcomed the anesthesiologists and their pain relievers. But the nonstop traffic was annoying. The social worker bumped into the dietitian, who passed the shrink. As the veterans’ rep left, a candy striper arrived. So many clergymen popped in, from a Catholic priest to Episcopalian ministers to a rabbi, I could have chaired an ecumenical conference. The brass brought commemorative coins, the Red Cross socks, occupational therapists a mechanical reacher.

The onslaught of hospital pros had one saving grace: no one seemed fazed by my injury but me. Just the word amputation made me shudder. It conjured up a disjointed series of images: a childhood friend who had lost his leg in an auto accident; World War II veterans wheeled into ballparks for holiday games, their empty trousers or shirt sleeves pinned up. I had avoided mirrors all week. Now I feared seeing the startling reality in the faces of my family and friends who would be visiting later that day.

My fears turned out to be groundless. The one emotion everyone showed was happiness to see me alive, maimed or not. But two exchanges stood out. My sister surprised me with a gift: a 1900 silver dollar our gambler father had won in Las Vegas and given to her in 1956 when she was eight years old. Leslie figured if I ever needed a father, it was now.

I held my father’s winnings and thought of the larger bet he lost. He deferred a family life to business success, and died before he had either. I had almost repeated the mistake. The realization put my father’s death in a new light. I understood for the first time why he exited before getting to know me: he had gambled on a future that never materialized. It was a mistake I could begin to forgive.

I had gambled on a job assignment and had my own damage-control problems. Skyler had reacted angrily when he first heard of my injury from my old friend David Maraniss, who had broken the news to my children and estranged wife, Judith Katz. “He lied to me, he lied to me,” Skyler shouted, referring to my parting words when I left for Iraq. “He promised me he wouldn’t get hurt.” According to Judith, Skyler had moped and cried every day until I came

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