Drags a Bit but Ultimately Delivers
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 12, 2022
Pandemic, Inc.: Chasing the Capitalists and Thieves Who Got Rich While We Got Sick by J. David McSwane
“Pandemic, Inc.” an expose of those who took advantage of a global pandemic to enrich themselves at the expense of a desperate public. Investigative reporter J. David McSwane goes behind the curtain to investigate the crooked networks of brokers, scammers, investors and profiteers who went out of their way to enrich themselves. He also examines the inept response from the Trump administration. This revelatory 328-page book includes twenty-three chapters and an epilogue.
1. Solid investigative journalism led to this book. Good use of humor, and its engaging style will reel readers in.
2. The fascinating topic of the pandemic industry.
3. Provides the author’s purpose of the book upfront. “My goal in writing this book is twofold. First, to make some sense of the larger system churning over our heads and its role in our nation’s missteps—that is to say, unfettered capitalism and its byproduct, greed. Second, for posterity.”
4. Provocative statements. “How did the most advanced, the wealthiest country in the world, with just 4 percent of the global population, at one point come to account for one in five COVID deaths and nearly a quarter of all cases worldwide?”
5. Does a good job of retelling the COVID-19 story. “On March 11, the WHO made it official: COVID-19 was a global pandemic.”
6. Mismanagement by Trump’s Administration, fake cures. “At the same time Navarro and Hatfill worked out the Phlow deal, Navarro’s team was also trying to secure a $765 million loan to Eastman Kodak, the photography company, to help produce hydroxychloroquine.”
7. Mismanagement of funds. “I connected with as many of these brokers as I could and was shocked to learn that, during this particular time in lockdown, people were wiring fortunes to strangers based on little else than a grainy video.”
8. Explains the three-step process to riches. “Step One: Get a purchase order from a desperate government agency. Step Two: Use the purchase order to get financing from private investors. Step Three: Buy masks from China.”
9. Differences between blue and red states in handling the pandemic. “In California, a blue state, residents were militant about masks, even in open-air situations. In Texas, a red state, people were galvanized against the oppression of a basic, if inconvenient, public health measure.
10. How scoundrels tricked users into buying masks not suitable for hospitals. “Comparing Rivera’s photo and TDEM’s, the packages were identical but for the important words that were missing from the final packaging: “MEDICAL USE PROHIBITED.”
11. Describes poorly run states like Texas by their governor, Abbott. “In his unbearable way, Jones and others spread fear that Jade Helm was a precursor to the martial law takeover of the United States at the direction of Obama, a sort of Trojan horse. Such folderol could be expected to dissipate, but in one of his first acts as governor, Abbott validated the fringe of his party and the rampant conspiracy theories spreading online. He ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the situation—that is, somehow watch over the Pentagon—“to address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure, and informed…””
12. Uncovers many troubling transactions that occurred during the pandemic. “Several studies would show that banks favored wealthy white borrowers at the expense of minority companies in dire need of assistance.”
13. Exposes lucrative lies. “In one breath, Kennedy managed to evoke our deepest societal fears and resentments and associate them with outlandish fantasies such as that Microsoft founder Bill Gates had sneaked microchips into the vaccine or that COVID-19 was actually caused by the advent of 5G cellular infrastructure.”
14. Exposes disseminators of lies. “Before social media companies began to crack down on vaccine misinformation in 2021, Kennedy and the nonprofit boasted almost 2 million followers across platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, according to an analysis by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an international nonprofit that tracks the online spread of racist propaganda and medical misinformation.”
15. Describes how big pharmaceutical companies cashed in on the pandemic. “After raising more than $2 billion, Moderna hauled in another $600 million in its initial public stock offering. In January 2020, before announcing it was working on a COVID vaccine, the company was worth around $6 billion. BioNtech also went public in the fall of 2019, raising a more modest $150 million, for a total valuation of about $3.4 billion.” “The boom in biotech and healthcare stocks created at least forty new billionaires who had ties to companies that gained from COVID-19, Forbes magazine would report in April 2021.”
16. The devastation of the pandemic.
17. Describes cases of accountability. “The first count, making false statements to the federal government, stemmed from what I reported along our hapless journey in late April 2020. The U.S. prosecutor discovered Stewart had explicitly stated in emails to FEMA and the VA that he had millions of N95 masks in his possession. As a result of those lies, he was awarded two no-bid contracts, together worth $38.5 million.”
18. Notes included.
1. The book overpromised.
2. Lack of charts and visual material that would have added much needed depth to this book.
3. The book is slow at times, it drags.
4. Should have done a better job of presenting the facts. Once again, charts and diagrams would have helped make his case clearer particularly to the more visual readers.
5. Should have done a better job of describing of what it takes to get a government contract through and how scoundrels are held accountable.
6. I wanted more clearly stated facts.
In summary, I wanted to like this more than I actually did. The search for the truth dragged a bit and the reader has to pay a price for that. Ultimately, the author does deliver and through the journey makes interesting revelations of how opportunists take advantage of chaos to enrich themselves and how some are caught and held accountable. Average to good book, a marginal recommendation.
Further recommendations: “How to Prevent the Next Pandemic” by Bill Gates, “Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science” by Peter J. Hotez, “The Great Influenza” by John M. Barry, “Pandemic 1918” by Catharine Arnold, “Flu” by Gina Kolata, and “Influenza” by Jeremy Brown.
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